Managing high blood pressure effectively for seniors

Amealya Blake Registered Nurse Visiting Nurse Service of New York
Managing high blood pressure effectively for seniors

An estimated one in three adults have high blood pressure while more than 50 percent of people over the age of 65 have high blood pressure as a diagnosis. Blood pressure is a measure of the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries - the blood vessels that carry blood from your heart to other parts of the body. High blood pressure can lead to the heart having to work harder than normal to pump blood to all the different parts of the body.

The following are some simple tips for you or your loved one to help manage high blood pressure.


Do

Do get screened

High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it doesn’t cause symptoms until it is extremely high (at which point it can cause severe headaches, vision changes, fatigue, confusion, or nosebleeds). This means that while you may feel healthy, high blood pressure can leave you at-risk for heart disease, kidney disease, vision problems and even premature death. This is why it’s important to get screened for high blood pressure so you can maintain a healthy life. There are home blood pressure monitors that are inexpensive, accurate, and easy to use. Discuss with your healthcare provider how often to check your blood pressure.

Do live a healthy lifestyle

While high blood pressure cannot be cured, it can be managed. It’s important to get it under control by following a treatment plan recommended by your doctor. Usually, these plans include simple ways to lead a healthy lifestyle, including exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, managing stress and having a heart-healthy diet. Work with your healthcare provider and ask them questions on how to lead a healthy lifestyle. Your healthcare providers are aware of your pre-existing conditions and have knowledge of the medications you are taking, so they can work with you to provide the best course of action for you to lead a healthy life.

Do monitor your blood pressure at home

Monitoring your blood pressure on an ongoing basis is one of the most important items on your checklist. By keeping track of your blood pressure and communicating with your doctor or a home health care professional you become one of the most valuable members of your own health care team. If you monitor consistently, you may even be able to diminish out-of-range blood pressure readings, which can put individuals who monitor infrequently at risk for heart attack or stroke.

Do get educated

There are plenty of resources out there to find more information on how to manage or prevent high blood pressure. You can find some more insights on the tips provided in this article by reviewing VNSNY’s guide to managing high blood pressure located here.

Here are some additional links you may find helpful as resources:

American Heart Association
1-800-AHA-USA-1 (or 1-800-242-8721)
www.americanheart.org

American Society of Hypertension
212-696-9099
www.ash-us.org/

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
1-770-488-2424
www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)
301-592-8573
www.nhlbi.nih.gov/

National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse
1-800-891-5390
http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/kudiseases/pubs/highblood/


Don't

Do not eat unhealthy foods

One of the most effective ways to manage high blood pressure is to have a heart-healthy diet that includes eating foods that decrease your sodium, fat and sugar intake. This can be done by introducing more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products into your diet. Also, avoid or limit alcohol and caffeine in your routine. Simple snack ideas that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories include unsalted pretzels, low fat graham crackers, raw vegetables or popcorn with no salt or butter.

Do not live a sedentary lifestyle

In continuing this line of leading a healthy lifestyle, it is critical that you lead a lifestyle that keeps you active and engaged. If you have a sedentary lifestyle, try to exercise in moderation for at least 30 minutes, at least five times a week. Exercises can also have other benefits like lowering the risk of chronic conditions including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and many more.

If you are unable to do conventional aerobic or cardio exercises due to preexisting conditions, decreasing the time spent sitting like watching television or being on the computer can also lead to a healthier lifestyle. Whether it’s playing with your grandchildren or doing some gardening, pick an activity that you enjoy and make it a part of your daily routine.

Please check with your doctor before starting an exercise program and ask if there are any exercises you should avoid, especially if you have any pre existing conditions.

Do not lead a stressful lifestyle

Increased stress levels can contribute to unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking, overeating, drinking too much alcohol or even drug abuse. If there is increased stress, your body can release hormones that overwork and pressure your heart. This means that more stress puts you at a greater risk for higher blood pressure, in addition to heart attack, stroke, blood clots, and many more. Learn ways that help you relax your mind and body. There are audiotapes and resources online that provide more information on techniques that can help reduce stress.

One helpful way to reduce stress is to practice meditation. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and concentrate on a single calming and peaceful thought, word, or object. If you have difficulty concentrating, try repeating a word or sound (called a mantra) over and over and focus on your breathing.

Do not mismanage your medication

Per the above research, ask your doctor if prescribed diuretics may be helpful for you; he or she will help you outweigh the benefits and potential side effects. It’s also important to keep an up-to-date list of all the medications you are taking, including over-the-counter or nonprescription medications or supplements. A medication container or pillbox can serve as a reminder of when to take the pills – and can help you plan up to a week in advance. It is also important to try using one pharmacy for all of your medications as this fosters a good relationship between you and your pharmacist and decreases medication errors or interactions.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

The tips offered in this piece are simple ways for you to manage high blood pressure. If there was one simple way to summarize the tips, I’d say that a healthy lifestyle can help you maintain a healthy heart. If you can control your blood pressure, you’ll learn that it will enhance the quality of your life and health.

Please check with your healthcare provider to find more information on the best treatment for you.


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Amealya BlakeRegistered Nurse

Amealya Blake RN, is a dedicated registered nurse with the not-for-profit Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY). VNSNY is the largest not-for-profit home- and community-based health care organization in the United States, serving the five b...

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