High Blood Pressure: A Beginner's Guide
An estimated 67 million people of all ages have high blood pressure and more than half of these are age 60 and older. Most people don't know that they have high blood pressure--hypertension--until it is discovered during a routine physical exam. Even though there are no symptoms, high blood pressure is a serious disease that can cause heart or kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke, blindness and even death.
Important facts you and your older relative should know about high blood pressure:
- The chances of developing high blood pressure increases with age.
- Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after menopause.
- Men may develop the disorder earlier than women, sometimes before they reach age 55.
- High blood pressure often runs in families, if you parent has high blood pressure, you may be at risk. Have your pressure monitored regularly.
- African Americnas are especially at risk for high blood pressure.
- Blood pressure varies throughout the day.
- Increased blood sugar levels caused by diabetes can affect blood pressure.
- Blood pressure varies throughout the day. It's usually low in the morning and rises as the day progresses.
The good news is that hypertension often can be managed with simple lifestyle changes and may not require medications. If you are caring for an older adult who has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it's important that you both understand what high blood pressure is, the risk factors for the disease, and its effect on health. With this information and the advice of a doctor, you and your older relative can develop strategies that will help maintain normal blood pressure and good health.
Tips for basic blood pressure management:
- Keep a record of your relative's blood pressure. Both you and your parent should know what the doctor says his or her blood pressure should be.
- After a diagnosis of high blood pressure, your relative should schedule regular blood pressure check-ups witha health care professional.
- Limit alcoholic beverages to two drinks a day for men; one drink a day for women. Even better - give up beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks entirely.
- If your parent smokes, encourage her to join a SmokeEnders program.
- Regular exercise and good night's sleep can lower blood pressure and increase your relative's overall health.
- Use less salt on foods or replace table salt with a salt substitute.
- Some over-the-counter cough and cold remedies can increase blood pressure or interact with blood pressure medicines. Ask the doctor or pharmacist before your relative uses any of these medications.
- Encourage your parent to maintain a healthy weight by eating healthy diet.
- Physical, emotional or mental stress can cause anyone's blood pressure to rise. Help your loved one develop stress management techniques like deep breathing, focusing on the positive aspects of life, or taking a time-out.
Some people with especially high blood pressure, kidney disease, or diabetes, or people over 70 may want to consider monitoring their blood pressure at home. It's convenient and at-home monitoring can track blood pressure throughout the day which will help you and your parent determine how stress, exercise, blood sugar, and other factors affect blood pressure. A variety of blood pressure monitors are available at medical supply companies, pharmacies, and online. Prices range from $20 to over $100 depending on accuracy, memory, and ease of use. Your doctor or pharmacist may recommend the monitor that best meets your parent's needs.
Although high blood pressure is a serious condition it is not a painful condition and there are many ways to control it such as lifestyle changes, exercise, diet and medications. Caregivers and those they care for can work together with the doctor to determine the best strategies for managing the disease and reducing the long-term effects of high blood pressure.