Known as one of the most common diseases to affect people who are past their 40s, high blood pressure is a serious coronary disease that affects 1 out of 3 Americans. The body has a normal blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg, which is the amount of force the blood pushes against the walls of the arteries as it is pumped throughout the body.The blood pressure rises because of several factors and if it stays high for a prolonged period, damage to the blood vessels can result.
The condition is more commonly found as we age and control of the condition in individuals over their 50's tend to be challenging especially if it was discovered in its later stages.
Overview of Hypertension
|Mikael Häggström /Public domain / Wikimedia Commons|
Individuals who have stage 1 hypertension have a blood pressure of 140-159 /90-99 mmHg. T
hose who have stage 2 hypertension have a blood pressure of 160-higher/100-higher.
Because the condition often does not present with symptoms when it first appears, you can go through several years without realizing that you already have hypertension.Â In fact, only a fraction of people who have hypertension are actually aware that they have the condition and are actually treating it.
This is the reason why doctors advise patients who are in their 40s or older to have their pressure levels checked regularly in order to determine if theyÂ already have the symptoms.
Symptoms of Hypertension
Hypertension often presents with very mild symptoms or nothing at all.
In most cases, the most common symptoms you will observe are headaches or dizziness, which could easily be symptoms of other conditions.
However, these symptoms when found in the elderly should be checked out since they could likely point to hypertension.
Dizziness occurs due to a decreased blood flow to the brain.
Headaches should also be reported. Although often dismissed, headaches in the elderly are caused by increased pressure on the blood vessels that supply the head.
If you feel other symptoms such as blurred vision, rapid heart rate, chest pain, and shortness of breath, it is best to get immediate medical attention.
Known Causes and Risk Factors
Although age is a factor for developing hypertension, it is not considered a part of healthy aging.
The elderly are at a greater risk since we often lead sedentary lives. Lack of exercise as well as a poor diet can also contribute to the development of hypertension in people over 50 years of age.
The majority of cases of increased pressure in the blood vessels have no known cause, while the rest are caused by other medical conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, drug interactions, and hormonal disorders.
The elderly are prone to the development of various health conditions as they grow older, further increasing their risks for hypertension.
Treatment and Maintenance
Treatment for the elderly who have increased pressure in the blood vessels is different from general treatment for hypertension. In the past, giving prescription medication for hypertension to the elderly was considered a risky practice, since anti-hypertensive medications also tend to lower an elderly's blood pressure down to dangerous levels.
Only those who had extremely high hypertension were given medications. Today there are medications designed especially for the elderly and they come with fewer side effects compared to the medications of the past.
Common medications used in the treatment and management of hypertension include:
- Beta blockers
- ACE inhibitors
- Calcium channel blockers
- Nervous systemÂ inhibitors
These are just a few of the medications used to treat hypertension caused high blood pressure.
Diuretics work by flushing excess water and sodium or salt out of the body in order to reduce the amount of fluid in the blood, which may be causing the increased pressure.
Beta-blockers decrease the amount of nerve impulses passing between the heart and blood vessels, which slows the heart down.
ACE inhibitors are short for angiotensin converting ezyme inhibitors, which prevent the formation of angiotensin II, a substance that causes the blood vessels to constrict.
Prevention of the formation of this hormone keeps the blood vessels wide and relaxed. Most of these medications work by relaxing the blood vessels in order to facilitate a wider passage of blood in order to keep the pressure on the blood vessels down.
The best way to prevent high blood pressure as you grow older is the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
This includes following healthy eating patterns, which involves including fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, foods that are low in saturated fat, and foods low in sugar.
A healthy diet should also contain amounts of grain poultry, fish, and nuts. You also need to reduce the amount of red meat, sweets, and sugared drinks.
Reduction of salt in the diet is very important since salt promotes water retention. Increased levels of water can also raise blood pressure.
It is also important to maintain a healthy weight since blood pressure increases as weight increases.
This is where regular exercise and activity come in.
You also need to stop smoking and reduce your stress levels if you want to lower your risk of hypertension. Years of stressful living can have a severe impact on the body and will lead to the development of high blood pressure.
Coping techniques such as deep breathing and imagery, meditation, and even hobbies have been found helpful in decreasing levels of stress in the elderly.
It is also important that you stop smoking if you smoke.
Nicotine has an instant effect on blood pressure since it constricts the blood vessels, making it harder for the blood to pass through.Â Tobacco can also damage the lining of the blood vessels, increasing the risk for the development of atherosclerosis, another condition that can lead to the development of hypertension.
Hypertension is a common problem that that affects everyone, not just the elderly. However, if you are in your late adulthood, chances are you have a greater risk for developing the condition due to various contributing factors.
Living a healthy lifestyle coupled with regular visits to your doctor can help you lower high blood pressure and reduce the risks associated with the condition, or at the least, help in the detection of hypertension at its earliest stages.
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