Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries. Also called Hypertension, High Blood Pressure is often not associated with any particular signs or symptoms. Often referred to as “the silent killer”, high blood pressure is very common amoung older adults and if not treated can lead to stroke, heart disease, eye problems, kidney failure, and other health problems. High blood pressure can also cause shortness of breath during light physical activity or exercise.
What is high blood pressure?
The Heart & Stoke Foundation of Canada states that high blood pressure is when the blood pressure in your arteries is elevated and your heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood through the blood vessels. It is important that you have your blood pressure checked regularly by your healthcare provider.
When the doctor measures your blood pressure, the results are given in two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood. Your blood pressure reading is usually given as the systolic blood pressure number over the diastolic blood pressure number, such as 138/72. Normal blood pressure for adults is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80. This is stated as 120/80.
Who is At Risk?
Anyone can get high blood pressure, but there are some key factors that may contribute to the onset of high blood pressure. According to the National Institute on Aging, these are:
Age. The chance of having high blood pressure increases as you get older.
Gender. Before age 55, men have a greater chance of having high blood pressure. Women are more likely to have high blood pressure after menopause.
Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in some families.
Race. African Americans are at increased risk for high blood pressure.
If you have diabetes, the high risk category for your blood pressure is slightly lower. Your blood pressure should be less than 130 / 80. Consult a healthcare provider if your blood pressure level is higher than 130 / 80 on more than one occasion.
How to Control High Blood Pressure
If you have been seen by a doctor and told that you have high blood pressure, there may be a number of options provided to you at that time to help control your hypertension and minimize further risks. Such options are:
Medications – Your doctor may prescribe medications for hypertension. Follow as directed and ensure follow-up visits with your doctor to track blood pressure levels and adjustments.
Dietary Restrictions – Reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. High sources of sodium (salt) are found in highly processed foods. This includes fast foods, prepared meals, processed meats (such as hot dogs and lunch meats), canned and dried soups, bottled dressing, packaged sauces, condiments and salty snacks.
Physical Activity – Be physically active for at least 150 minutes per week. this can range from walking each day to more high intensity intervals and strength training.
Weight management – If you are overweight, losing even 5% to 10% of your weight can help to reduce your blood pressure as well as dramatically decrease your chances of having a stroke or heart attack.
Smoking & Alcohol Consumption – You doctor may recommend becoming smoke-free and/or reducing your alcohol consumption to minimize risk
Stress Management – Seek ways to reduce your stress by finding activities you enjoy doing, finding a calm space for meditation, or seeking professional assistance to manage stressors in your life, work, or relationships.
By monitoring your blood pressure on a regular basis, to avoiding high fat and sodium-rich foods, to getting physically active, you can begin to reduce the chances of having high blood pressure. Be sure to communicate with your doctor regularly to ensure your physical and mental health are looked after and to promote and healthier future.