Hypertension is a frightening diagnosis for seniors and their family caregivers. This common medical concern may seem almost inevitable as a person ages. Without treatment, it can lead to a stroke, heart attack or even dementia. Having a basic understanding about blood pressure is helpful for every senior and their loved ones too. Here are a few tips about what to look for, when concern is warranted and what to do if you have a high reading.
Blood Pressure Does Climb as You Age
Not everyone will develop hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure. Some people retain healthy numbers well into the senior years of life. However, many do experience a rise in at least the upper number, systolic pressure, as they age. There are many reasons for this including reduced physical activity that often comes with age and stiffening arteries that can contribute to high blood pressure.
A Single High Reading
Visiting the doctor’s office or sitting down for a blood pressure reading at the pharmacy is sometimes scary. If a senior sees a high reading, they sometimes jump to believing they have high blood pressure. This is not necessarily the case. Blood pressure rises and drops throughout the day. Also worth noting, many people experience something called white coat syndrome when visiting the doctor’s office. If your physician does suspect high blood pressure, he may have you return for a few visits before offering a diagnosis. Sometimes, additional testing is necessary which might include a 24-hour test, a blood panel or even a urinalysis. It is also a good idea to purchase a cuff and monitor blood pressure at home. Keep a log to provide your doctor with accurate information about what your day-to-day pressure looks like when you are not in the office.
Hypertension has no Symptoms
While a single high reading is not necessarily an indication of high blood pressure, it is important to visit a doctor for regular physicals and get checked. Without a doctor’s visit, many seniors do not know that they have hypertension. This is because the diagnosis often has no symptoms, so there are no warning signs. A good plan is to visit a doctor every six months and check blood pressure at home in between visits. If a high reading shows up, repeat the test at a different time of day or on a different day to see what happens. If there are more than two high readings, schedule an appointment with a doctor.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with hypertension, consider making some simple lifestyle changes. Adjusting your diet to include more fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help lower your numbers. If you are overweight, dropping 10 pounds can shave off up to four systolic points. Breathing exercises, meditation and incorporating activity into day-to-day life also helps. Together, these changes are sometimes just as effective as medication. With doctor’s approval, they may help a senior to reduce their dependence on prescriptions or even eliminate the need for them.
If your doctor does prescribe a blood pressure medication, it is crucial to take it as prescribed. Some medications are only taken once a day, while others work best in divided doses. Many seniors are prescribed more than one medication to effectively lower blood pressure. It is important to take all medications because they work best together. Pill boxes and reminders from family members or in home caregivers are useful in helping seniors to remember their medication schedule and dosage.
While taking medications, use caution when choosing any over the counter medications. Some can raise blood pressure or cause adverse effects when mixed with prescriptions, so discuss your choices with a doctor or pharmacist first.
Hypertension is a serious condition, but for most individuals, it is easy to manage. With lifestyle changes, monitoring and the proper medications, many seniors keep their blood pressure under control and continue to live a long and healthy life.
If your loved one is struggling with preparing health meals, needs assistance with daily activity or would benefit from medication reminders to help keep blood pressure in check, Salus Homecare San Fernando Valley is here to help. Call us to learn more or schedule your complimentary, no obligation evaluation.
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