Many notorious lifestyle diseases only show themselves during your senior years when you become vulnerable and weak due to old age. One example is high blood pressure or hypertension which is widely known as “the silent killer.”
The disease got its infamous nickname because of its ability to conceal any signs and symptoms until such time that the illness grows uncontrollable.
As fatal as it might seem, you can easily avoid and manage high blood pressure, controlling its progression, and ultimately not letting it interfere with your life.
Before that, here is everything you need to know about hypertension—what it is, its symptoms, and the steps in managing high blood pressure.
Hypertension in Seniors: What Is It?
High blood pressure or hypertension refers to the abnormal rise of a person’s blood pressure from the normal range of 120/80 to 140/90 or higher.
Blood pressure pertains to the amount of force your heart uses to pump blood all over your body. When measuring, it is given as two figures, namely:
- Systolic pressure
- Diastolic pressure
High blood pressure is not a normal part of aging. Still, many older adults have it due to unhealthy lifestyle habits. In fact, studies showed that almost 50% of seniors aged 69 and above had an increased chance of developing the disease.
It can be hard to tell whether or not you suffer from high blood pressure. Most seniors in its early stages relatively feel fine until a doctor’s routine check-up picks up its telltale signs.
Signs, Symptoms, and Causes of Hypertension
Since it is a silent medical condition, many seniors won’t experience any symptoms until the disease becomes severe. Some of the physical manifestations of hypertension include:
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness and visual changes
- Bleeding of the nose
- Chest pain
- Blood in the urine
These symptoms are relatively vague to require medical attention. They are also too common and general, making it hard to diagnose hypertension unless routine check-ups are done.
High blood pressure has been linked to many causes. It can be due to your genes, unhealthy lifestyle, family history, race, and underlying medical condition.
Physical changes due to old-age, such as the decreasing elasticity of the blood vessels, may also increase one’s risk of having the illness.
Managing High Blood Pressure
A doctor can diagnose you with high blood pressure after doing succeeding blood pressure readings on you for a week. They can also subject you to several diagnostic examinations like:
- Urine analysis
- Blood test for cholesterol screening
- Electrocardiogram to check your heart’s activity
- Ultrasound of the heart or kidneys
After confirming your hypertension, doctors can prescribe you medications to help you control your high blood pressure.
However, medications can only do so much. You should also do your fair share of work to manage your hypertension by controlling or eradicating the factors contributing to it.
Here are useful steps in managing your high blood pressure through natural means.
1. Healthy Diet
The food you eat has a massive impact on your overall health, including the development of certain diseases like hypertension.
Your unhealthy eating habits might have been the major culprit to your disease, so it is time to start practicing discipline regarding the food you consume. Start your road to a healthy lifestyle by doing these healthy habits.
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Cut back on salty foods and those with added sugars, calories, and preservatives.
- Use less oil, butter, and margarine. Use fat-free or low-fat products instead.
- Skip the junk and processed foods, even fast foods.
- Use herbs and spices to bring flavorful tastes to your meals.
- More water, less alcohol, and carbonated drinks.
- Grill, bake or use healthy oils in preparing meals.
2. Regular Exercise
A healthy diet would not be complete without adding regular exercise into it. Mild to moderate aerobic exercises help in managing high blood pressure.
Obesity also increases the likelihood of complicating your hypertension. To avoid this, you should maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and a proper diet.
You can start with simple activities like morning walks, Zumba, or yoga. Then gradually progress it to blood-pumping workouts if your doctor approves.
3. Clean Lifestyle
Smoking damages the blood vessels while alcohol consumption raises blood pressure even more.
So, if you are serious about making a change, then you should cut back on alcohol and quit smoking altogether.
Aside from damaging vessels, smoking can also cause heart disease, stroke, and cancer. These medical conditions can exacerbate your hypertension, bringing a significant threat to your life.
It is never too late to quit smoking. Tell your plans to your doctor, and he/she and your family can help you go through with it.
4. Manage Stress
Studies suggest that chronic—even occasional—stress highly contributes to high blood pressure. Stress also becomes the main reason why people succumb to unhealthy eating, smoking, and alcohol drinking.
Not all stressors can be controlled, so what you can do is change your outlook and the way you cope with the stresses in your life. You can try these things:
- Avoid your triggers. If you can, try avoiding your stress triggers, may it be a person, a situation, or a place. For instance, if being alone triggers you, then have a loved one accompany you to the mall or the hospital.
- Adjust your expectations. Make amends with the fact that not everything can be controlled. Some things are beyond your control, and that is FINE. Understand this and learn to let go and move on.
- Break tasks into smaller portions. If a huge task overwhelms you, try calming your mind and break it into smaller steps instead. It is also okay to ask for help every time you need it.
- Make time for relaxation. Allot a “me” time every day where you can just do things that make you happy. Do enjoyable things with your family, unwind with your senior peers, or bond with your dog.
- Get sleep. An ample amount of sleep helps reduce stress.