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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 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:

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.