Aging parents, spouses, and others need to know their blood pressure status; May is National High Blood Pressured Education Month and an excellent time to find out about a common cause of ill health and, in many cases, death.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 64% of men and 69.3% of women between the ages of 65 and 74, and 66.7% of men and 78.5% of women ages 75 and older. High blood pressure is typically defined as a reading of 140/90 or higher. Readings between 120/80 and 139/89 are classified as “pre-hypertension,” and indicate that hypertension could become a reality in the future – possibly the near future.
High blood pressure is dangerous; in 2009, it was the cause of or a contributing factor in 348,000 deaths in the U.S. It also increases the chances of other serious conditions. For example, some 70% of people having a first heart attack and about 80% of those having their first stroke also have hypertension. About 70% of people with chronic heart failure also have high blood pressure.
Preventing high blood pressure can have enormous benefits. Aging parents and others should take the following steps to help prevent hypertension:
- Eat properly. A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and cholesterol can help to prevent high blood pressure. It’s also very important to watch salt intake; it’s estimated that 11,000,000 cases of hypertension could be prevented if people followed the recommended daily guidelines of only 2,300 mg of sodium.
- Keep a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is also an excellent way to prevent hypertension. Being overweight increases the likelihood of blood pressure issues.
- Stay physically fit. Getting an appropriate amount of exercise is also a good prevention tip. Two and a half hours of moderate exercise per week is often all that is required.
- Quit smoking. Cigarettes and other tobacco products damage blood vessels and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Watch alcohol intake. Alcohol also can be a contributing factor to blood pressure conditions.
- Limit stress. Stress is bad for general health and often causes short-term spikes in blood pressure readings.
As with all things, it’s a wise idea to check with a doctor before making changes to one’s diet or fitness routine.
Aging parents, spouses, and others should definitely check with their doctors to see if they need to make alterations in their lifestyles to prevent hypertension or should seek treatment to deal with existing blood pressure issues. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure level can be a life-changing experience.