Updated: Nov 24, 2022
High blood pressure or hypertension- sometimes called "the silent killer," is a major health problem that is very common in older adults. Hypertension often doesn't cause signs of illness that one can see or feel easily. With advancing age, body’s network of blood vessels- vascular system changes i.e., arteries get stiffer, causing blood pressure to go up. However, this can also happen to the people who have heart-healthy habits and feel just fine. Unfortunately, although high blood pressure affects nearly half of all adults, many may not even be aware they have it.
In 2017, new guidelines from the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology, and nine other health organizations lowered the numbers for the diagnosis of hypertension (high blood pressure) to 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and higher for all adults. The previous guidelines set the threshold at 140/90 mm Hg for people younger than age 65 and 150/80 mm Hg for those ages 65 and older. The goal with the new guidelines is to help people address high blood pressure — and the problems that may accompany it like heart attack and stroke — much earlier.
Measuring Blood pressure using two numbers:
1. Systolic blood pressure - the first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in body arteries while heart beats.
2. Diastolic blood pressure-the second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in body arteries when heart rests between beats.
Blood pressure levels are classified based upon these two numbers.
Normal blood pressure- for most adults is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80.
Low blood pressure or hypotension- is systolic blood pressure lower than 90 or diastolic blood pressure lower than 60. When one has low blood pressure, one may feel lightheaded, weak, dizzy, or even faint. It can also be caused by blood loss, not getting enough fluids, some medical conditions, or medications.
High blood pressure- is defined as systolic pressure of 130 or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 80 or higher.
Elevated blood pressure- is defined as a systolic pressure between 120 and 129 with a diastolic pressure of less than 80.
Isolated systolic hypertension- For older adults, often the systolic blood pressure is 130 or higher, but the diastolic blood pressure is less than 80. This problem is called isolated systolic hypertension and is due to age-related stiffening of the major arteries.
Factors related to high blood pressure
It is important knowledge that anyone can have high blood pressure. Some medical conditions, such as kidney disease, metabolic syndrome, and thyroid problems, can also lead to high blood pressure.
Some of the important factors related to high blood pressure can include:
Age- The chance of having high blood pressure increases with increasing age, especially isolated systolic hypertension.
Gender- Women are believed to be more likely to have high blood pressure after menopause. Before age 55, men can have a greater chance of having high blood pressure.
Family history- Heredity may play role as high blood pressure runs in some families.
Race- African Americans are believed to be at increased risk for high blood pressure.
High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms, but routine checks of blood pressure can help detect increasing levels.
Startling Facts About High Blood Pressure
1. High blood pressure usually doesn’t have any symptoms
2. Young people can have high blood pressure, too
3. High blood pressure may be linked to dementia.
4. Many people who have high blood pressure don’t know it
5. Women and African Americans face unique risks related to high blood pressure.
Keep your blood pressure in check
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure is when the blood pressure in body arteries rises and the heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood through the blood vessels. It is important that everyone has their blood pressure checked regularly by the healthcare provider. If high blood pressure is not controlled with lifestyle changes and medication, it can lead to serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease and stroke, vascular dementia, eye problems, and kidney disease.
The good news is that blood pressure can be controlled in most people. Adjusting lifestyle habits, such as getting more exercise, losing weight if needed, and following a heart-healthy diet like the DASH or Mediterranean diet can help controlling the blood pressure.
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