Is High Blood Pressure in older age inevitable?

You can have high blood pressure and not know it. This is because you may not have symptoms until there is a health crisis, such as a stroke or heart attack

The older you are, the more likely you are to develop high blood pressure. However, does that mean that if you live long enough, you are destined to develop high blood pressure?
"Actually high blood pressure is not a normal part of aging. In fact, there are quite a few things you can do to lower your risk," said Jitu Bharali, a cardiologist from Guwahati. Bharali however maintained that age does make one more vulnerable to high blood pressure.
"As you age, the vascular system changes. This includes your heart and blood vessels. In the blood vessels, there is a reduction in elastic tissue (more specifically in the arteries) causing them to become stiffer and less compliant. As a result, your blood pressure increases," he explained.
But there is a lot more to high blood pressure than age.
"Variables include things like genetic factors, lifestyle factors, medication related factors and other medical co morbidities," he stated. "Common medical conditions that lead to hypertension include sleep apnea and kidney disease," Bharali added.
Lifestyle factors include smoking, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, obesity and sleep deprivation. Salt is a necessary nutrient, but excessive salt can be a problem and cause for high blood pressure too.
There is a lot more to high blood pressure than age
Incidentally, you can have high blood pressure and not know it. This is because you may not have symptoms until there is a health crisis, such as a stroke or heart attack.
Representative image
Image: Representative image
"A healthy blood pressure reading is one where the systolic blood pressure (the top number) is less than 120 and diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) is less than 80. Systolic blood pressure of 120 to 129 and diastolic blood pressure higher than 80 is considered elevated. Anything above that is considered hypertension," informed Bharali.
Bharali recommended that all adults over age 18 should have their blood pressure screened at least once a year. Those with diagnosed high blood pressure should be checked more frequently. "Ideally, patients with hypertension should monitor and record their blood pressures at home on a daily basis," he said.
He also cautioned that 'over the counter' blood pressure monitors are not always reliable. "Therefore you should sit down for five minutes and take your blood pressure three times. If you have a good machine, the three readings should be similar," Bharali advised.
So how can the risk of developing high blood pressure be minimized? " Read nutrition labels on prepared foods, as they can contain a lot of sodium and limit alcohol. That means no more than two drinks a day for men and one for women," advised Bharali.
"Get 90 to 150 minutes of aerobic exercise per week and monitor your weight. Obesity is an independent risk factor for high blood pressure. Also work on getting a good night's sleep. Sleep deprivation, or getting less than six hours of uninterrupted sleep at night, can increase blood pressure. See your doctor if you suspect you have sleep apnea. Most importantly, get regular health checkups," he concluded.
If average blood pressure is consistently above 140/90, medications are generally started. "In some people with additional cardiovascular risk factors, that threshold is even lower. It is possible to come off blood pressure medications if blood pressure is further controlled with lifestyle measures," Bharali further revealed.

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