Important information about high, low, and normal blood pressure.
One key factor to healthy living is blood pressure, especially for seniors. We all heart our health and want the best for our bodies. Whether it be through the food we eat, or the exercises we actively do each week; these factors play an important role in controlling blood pressure. Blood pressure is exactly as it sounds, which is the amount of pressure when blood is pumped to and from the heart. But when blood pressure is too high, or too low, it can mean that the blood is pumping through blood vessels too hard against the inner walls, or, vital organs in the body aren’t getting enough blood.
In order to determine whether or not someone has high or low blood pressure, two factors contribute to its measurement. These factors are systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic refers to when the heart pumps blood out to the rest of the body. Diastolic is the exact opposite, referring to when blood is being pumped back into the heart. When measuring blood pressure, the systolic number (the higher number) is the first number displayed while the diastolic number (the lower number) is the second number displayed on a blood pressure monitor.
What Exactly Does High Blood Pressure Mean?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is caused when blood pumping through blood vessels is pressing too hard against the vessel’s walls. As blood pumps through these vessels, they expand to allow the blood to flow through. What commonly happens is if blood pressure is high, it can damage and rip soft blood vessel tissue, leading them to become hardened and constricted making it more difficult to pump blood throughout the body.
As often with aging, these blood vessels, mainly arteries, tend to stiffen and harden which is often why some seniors have higher blood pressure. To monitor this change, seniors should check their blood pressure regularly as there are no symptoms attributed to having high blood pressure. In major cases of high blood pressure (hypertensive crisis), a person could experience some symptoms such as sweating, chronic headaches, lightheadedness, or redness of the face.
Aside from aging, other factors are associated with having high blood pressure:
- A medical history of high blood pressure in families
- Not having enough physical activity or being overweight
- Elevated levels of stress
- Eating a high amount of fatty foods
Having high cholesterol is a large contributor to high blood pressure and can also lead to diabetes. Without proper exercise and diet, plaque can collect and build up inside of blood vessels, causing blockage of blood flow to important organs. This contributes to high blood pressure for the fact that blood is pumping harder against the vessel’s walls to move around the plaque build up.
Luckily, there are many ways to control high blood pressure. Healthy changes in diet, cardio based exercise, and prescribed medication can help regulate and reduce blood pressure to normal levels.
Is Low Blood Pressure a Concern?
Low blood pressure tends to not be a major concern. In fact, many people would prefer low blood pressure! But, for seniors, when low blood pressure becomes too low, hypotension, it can be a cause for concern. When blood pressure reaches an unsafe level with a systolic blood pressure of 90 and a diastolic pressure of 60, this might mean that blood is not properly pumping to crucial organs. There are some symptoms associated with low blood pressure. These include:
- Feeling sluggish or worn out
- Having complication with vision
- Becoming dizzy
- Not being able to focus clearly
Some factors are correlated as to why some seniors might have low blood pressure:
- Certain prescriptions
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Lack of a nutritious diet
Blood pressure can drop quickly in some cases. One case is due to postural hypotension. Postural hypotension is when someone stands up quickly from a seated or lying position, causing their blood pressure to quickly drop making them feel dizzy. This means that the body isn’t adjusting quickly enough to the rapid change in elevation. Usually, when someone stands up quickly, the body will regulate the abrupt change, allowing blood to pump quickly through the body to reduce the feeling of lightheadedness. Around 10-20% of seniors, 65 or over, have postural hypotension. This can, however, be treated through wearing compression socks, taking prescribed medication, and changing daily habits like eating, drinking, and physical activity.
Some other reasons why blood pressure can drop quickly:
- Reactions to certain prescriptions or alcoholic beverages
- Lack of hydration
- Abrupt changes in body temperature
What is Normal Blood Pressure?
A normal blood pressure reading should be 120/80. When high blood pressure starts to be a concern, is when the systolic and diastolic blood pressure rises over 130/80. This is known as stage 1 hypertension and should be monitored. As blood pressure rises above 140 with a diastolic pressure of 90 or above, this is considered stage 2 of hypertension. If blood pressure reaches over 180 with a diastolic pressure of 120 or more, seek immediate contact with a medical professional as this could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Usually, the lower the systolic and diastolic pressure, the better. It means that blood is pumping properly throughout the body with little to no risk of health complications. If, however, blood pressure drops significantly, a doctor should be consulted as this might be an underlying issue.
Knowing what blood pressure means is extremely important and beneficial for seniors to live a happy and healthy life. With the right recommendations and steps in place, high and low blood pressure can be easily controlled.
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National Institute on Aging (2018, May 2) High Blood Pressure Retrieved from https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/high-blood-pressure
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