February 28, 2014

By Derek Jones

While it may seem that a diagnosis of hypertension – more commonly known as high blood pressure – is inevitable as a person ages, that’s not always the case. High blood pressure is categorized as having a blood pressure reading higher than 140/90. It’s been dubbed “the silent killer” since it’s not always accompanied by any signs beyond a higher-than-normal reading. Many individuals with hypertension don’t feel any different than they normal. However, 2 out of every 3 individuals over the age of 75 have what is considered high blood pressure.

Many adults over the age of sixty tend to receive less aggressive treatment for high blood pressure than their younger counterparts. This is in part because of the mistaken belief that normal systolic pressure is your age plus one hundred points. That means for someone that is eighty, some would consider 180 a normal blood pressure. This is not true. For people of any age, normal blood pressure falls within a reading of 120/80. Systolic blood pressure should be less than 120 and diastolic blood pressure should be lower than 80 to achieve a normal reading.

To answer some of your questions about high blood pressure in the elderly, Griswold Home Care has compiled a list of frequently-asked questions. Read on and learn more!

What is the difference between Diastolic and Systolic numbers in blood pressure readings?

Systolic pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) measures the pressure of blood on the arteries and vessels as the heart beats. Diastolic pressure measures the impact on the arterial walls throughout the body as the heart relaxes between heart beats.

What is considered high blood pressure in the elderly?

Your blood pressure is made up of two numbers: systolic blood pressure –the pressure used by your heart to push blood out of your heart, and diastolic blood pressure – the pressure your heart uses to fill itself back up with blood. The healthiest range for these two pressures is less than 120/80. For the elderly, some doctors consider 140/90 and lower to be normal readings. If your blood pressure reading exceeds these numbers, it begins to fall into the high blood pressure range.

What causes high blood pressure in the elderly?

Blood pressure increases with age, although science is not completely sure what causes high blood pressure. Elderly individuals do need to have their blood pressure monitored on a regular basis by their doctor. One possible reason for higher rates of blood pressure among the elderly is that, as a person ages, their arteries become stiffer. In turn, this can affect the systolic portion of your blood pressure number.




What happens if high blood pressure goes untreated in older adults?

If left untreated, high blood pressure can be fatal to older adults. Additional health problems may occur as a result of unchecked hypertension. Some of these health issues include:

  •     Stroke
  •     Loss of vision
  •     Loss of memory
  •     Kidney damage
  •     Angina
  •     Congestive heart failure
  •     Damage to the heart and coronary arteries
  •     Erectile dysfunction
  •     Peripheral artery disease
  •     Build-up of fluid in the lungs

What are some of the ways to treat high blood pressure in the elderly?

While some increase in blood pressure may be a part of the aging process, it still needs to be offset with lifestyle changes and medications as high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks and strokes. If you find that your blood pressure is on the rise and higher than when you were younger, there are steps you can take to lower it. Lifestyle changes can go a long way in the battle for lower blood pressure.

  •     If you have extra pounds, shedding them can be a first step. Studies have found that excess weight contributes to high blood pressure and also makes it difficult to control.
  •     Additionally, a direct link has been established between the amount of alcohol a person consumes and blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you will want to reduce or eliminate the amount of alcohol you consume.
  •     Sodium intake may also play a role in high blood pressure. It is worthwhile to reduce the sodium in your diet to see if there is an impact on your blood pressure.
  •     Finally, for lifestyle changes that can make a difference, exercise has been shown to have a modest impact on blood pressure levels.

When lifestyle changes are not enough, medications may need to be introduced to continue to lower blood pressure. Sometimes, a combination of drugs will be needed. However, some medications that are appropriate for younger people with hypertension may pose a threat to older adults with the same disorder. Many medical professionals advise older patients against taking beta blockers as part of their high blood pressure medication management regimen. This is due to the fact that many older people may already have slower heart rates and these types of medications inhibit the effect of stress hormones on the heart, slowing the heart rate even further.

Ultimately, the question of “Why do elderly get high blood pressure” isn’t as important as controlling it when it happens. By talking to your doctor and educating yourself on how to lower high blood pressure, you can live a longer – and healthier – life.