The subject of high blood pressure becomes a far too common a subject as we enter our senior years. The seeming pervasiveness of this condition among your peers and friends may give you an impression that it is an inevitable part of aging. Fortunately, high blood pressure is actually preventable, and working to prevent it from developing is well worth the painstaking effort.
Understanding Blood Pressure
When the heart beats, the blood it pumps through the blood vessels and arteries throughout your body, and exerts some pressure against the walls of said arteries. This pressure is referred to as “blood pressure”. Technically, the pressure against the artery walls as the heart beats is called systolic pressure, whereas the pressure in between beats as your heart relaxes is called diastolic pressure. That is why a blood pressure reading is given in two numbers, each representing these types of blood pressure. Both numbers are important indications of a person’s health condition. When your blood pressure reading exceeds 140/90 mm Hg, you would be considered hypertensive.
Our blood pressure is not always a constant number. Throughout the day, as we eat or drink or go through the motions of daily life, our blood pressure changes. For example, it rises when we’re excited, nervous or angry, and it falls when we’re asleep or meditating.
The Silent Killer
When the blood pressure exceeds the normal prescribed levels, the medical term for this condition is “hypertension.” However, we do not exactly “feel” it when we have high blood pressure; sometimes, a person realizes only that he has the condition when he suffers a heart attack or stroke, which can be too late in most cases. That is why hypertension has earned the sinister moniker of “the silent killer.” It is becoming more and more pervasive in modern society: the latest statistics indicate that 1 in 3 adult Americans, or about 72 million people, are affected by high blood pressure. Moreover, 2 in 3 seniors 75 years old and older are hypertensive.
High blood pressure should be a fairly manageable medical condition. When left untreated for too long, though, the situation can become very serious. Hypertension can force the heart to work too hard—eventually, after years or several months of untreated hypertension, the heart becomes larger or weaker, and it’s just a little slide down the road toward heart failure. Hypertension can also worsen your vision problems and can even leave you blind as blood vessels in your eyes burst or bleed. Hypertension can lead to the hardening of your arteries (especially those arteries in your brain, heart, kidneys and legs), which greatly increases your risk of a heart attack, a stroke, or kidney failure. For men, high blood pressure can affect their sex life or their sexual performance.
Prevention, Management and Treatment
The ways to prevent the development of high blood pressure are no different from what you must do to prevent other diseases. Basically, it’s all about clean living: don’t smoke, don’t drink too much alcohol, eat the right foods (avoid too much salt or sodium intake and eat plenty of fruits and veggies), get a good night sleep, stay away from stress (or learn how to de-stress) and exercise several times a week. Also, take good care of your heart by avoiding foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterol while eating foods that are rich in fiber (oatmeal)—having a healthy heart can be a good protection from hypertension.
Hypertension can also be treated with blood pressure-lowering medications, but such drugs can be a tricky ally in the war against hypertension, as some of them can cause damage to other internal organs such as the liver. When you do take such drugs, carefully discuss with your medical professional all your concerns and questions. You must be aware of how the drug works inside your body, when to take it, any side effect, and how it may interact with your vitamins or other health supplements you may be taking.
Barring any strong genetic predisposition to hypertension, you can prevent hypertension with the above-mentioned tips. In the end, however, it is still best to defeat hypertension by preventing its development in the first place through natural means, such as diet, exercise, and clean living.