Blood pressure is a common term used in medical settings. It is often used as an indication of cardiovascular risks.
Normal blood pressure levels mean the heart is pumping blood throughout the body without excessive force. It also signals that enough blood is sent to all extremities.
However, for over a billion people, normal blood pressure is difficult, sometimes nearly impossible to achieve. According to the World Health Organization, at least 33% of middle and low-income countries have hypertension. This is a term used to describe high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is noted more often in older individuals. This often brings up questions about how age affects cardiovascular risks, including blood pressure.
In this post, we analyze the relationship between age and blood pressure. We look at blood pressure by age. We consider how the measurement is taken and what symptoms signal elevated blood pressure.
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What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is a measurement that indicates how much force the heart uses to pump blood. It is often advised for blood pressure to be monitored frequently, even among healthy individuals. Blood pressure levels may drop or rise. In these cases, a patient is at risk of hypotension or hypertension.
Hypotension refers to a low blood pressure level. When blood pressure levels rise too high, it leads to a condition known as hypertension. This is a serious condition. It has a strong connection to heart disease and conditions affecting the kidneys and the brain.
When blood pressure is measured, there are two readings provided. An example of a blood pressure reading is 110/70mmHg.
Each of these readings holds a critical place in the measuring of blood pressure. Let’s consider what they mean:
- Systolic Blood Pressure: The first reading a blood pressure device gives is the systolic blood pressure. In the case of 110/70mmHg, the systolic blood pressure measures at 110mmHg. This indicates how much pressure is placed on blood vessels with each beat of the heart. A higher number means the heart applies more force with each pump.
- Diastolic Blood Pressure: This is generally the lower number in a blood pressure measurement. In a reading of 110/70mmHg, the 70 would represent diastolic blood pressure. It provides an indication of how much pressure there is between two heartbeats.
When a patient has a blood pressure measurement that falls between the lines of 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg, then the force used by their heart tend to be adequate. Excess pressure is not applied to blood vessels, which helps to reduce the risk of arterial wall damage.
High blood pressure is generally a condition where the reading surpasses 140/90mmHg. In such a case, there is too much force used to push blood through the body.
Treatment options are available for hypertension. Without the right treatment, serious adverse effects may be experienced. The patient is at risk of developing chronic diseases. These can harm the remainder of their lifespan.
Common examples of complications caused by high blood pressure include:
- Coronary heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
The complications caused by hypertension are not the only reason this condition is considered to be such a global health concern. One of the major problems is the fact that early symptoms are often not present. Many people with hypertension are unaware of their high blood pressure levels.
When this condition is not treated early on, there is a continuous increase in the risks it causes. In many cases, symptoms may be overlooked. The patient may notice the symptoms but do not link it to a possible rise in blood pressure levels.
It is only when levels of blood pressure become extremely high when symptoms may become visible. A few examples of symptoms that may signal a serious elevation in blood pressure include:
- There may be a sudden feeling of fatigue.
- The patient may experience confusion.
- Heartbeat may be irregular.
- There may be a pounding sensation in the chest.
- The pounding sensation may affect the ears or neck as well.
- Breathing difficulties have been noted with hypertension.
- Chest pain is also a relatively common symptom.
- In some cases, patients experience vision problems.
- A severe headache may also be a sign of severe hypertension.
- Patients also need to take note of nosebleeds.
Even when these symptoms are not present, it is still possible for a patient to experience hypertension’s long-term complications. When blood pressure remains higher than the advised levels over a long time, it gradually damages blood vessels.
In men, erectile problems have been commonly associated with high blood pressure. In fact, some studies have suggested that erectile dysfunction could be an early sign of heart disease. Several studies have been done on this particular subject. Researchers have concluded that a man with high blood pressure is much more likely to experience problems with his erections.
Due to the absence of hypertension symptoms, it is vital that all patients understand the condition and why it is often named a “silent killer.” Regular checkups with a doctor, including a test for hypertension, should be an important part of maintaining a healthy body.
Knowing the risks and causes of high blood pressure is essential. This can help a person better understand how likely they may be to develop the condition. It also ensures the individual is warier of symptoms, mainly if their risk for hypertension is higher. By understanding what increases the risk of elevated blood pressure, a patient is equipped with the knowledge needed to reduce the risks as well.
When looking at the causes, it is important to note that there are two types of hypertension conditions. This includes primary and secondary hypertension. The causes between the two tend to differ.
With primary hypertension, genes sometimes play a role in the risk. There are certain abnormalities and mutations in genes that can increase the patient’s risk of hypertension. These genes are generally inherited from the patient’s parents. Thus, if the individual’s parents have high blood pressure, their risk may also be higher.
The environment is known to affect the body too, which can lead to the development of primary hypertension. This is actually one of the most common reasons why people develop high blood pressure today. Many people are overweight or obese. These are considered environmental contributors to hypertension.
A majority of the population are not getting enough exercise to support bodily functions. This is often coupled with a diet that mainly consists of unhealthy foods. The diet may be rich in processed foods, saturated fats, and too many carbs. The combination of these two lifestyles or environmental factors leads to excessive weight gain and essentially causes blood pressure to rise.
The development of secondary hypertension is often not directly related to a patient’s lifestyle. Instead, there are specific factors that are known to cause this type of hypertension. In most cases, secondary hypertension is the more serious form of the condition. It also tends to develop much faster than primary hypertension.
The use of certain drugs may lead to secondary hypertension. For this reason, patients should always be cautious when using a new medication. Illegal drugs have also been associated with a higher risk of secondary hypertension.
Other possible causes for secondary hypertension include:
- Chronic use of alcohol
- Tumors that affect the endocrine system
- Thyroid-related conditions
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Problems with the adrenal gland
- Kidney diseases
- Congenital defects in the heart
Blood Pressure And Age
Several epidemiology studies have shown that there seems to be a higher trend of hypertension among older people. This is why a common question today is whether age affects blood pressure levels in the body.
The short answer to the question is generally yes. When looking at current evidence provided by scientific studies, older people have a much higher risk of high blood pressure.
The risk seems to start rising from the age of 45 – and then continuously becomes higher as the person ages. A significant percentage of diagnosed hypertension cases are found in people who are older than 60.
In one study, less than 10% of participants under the age of 29 had hypertension. Among those aged 60 and above, however, the prevalence was almost 70%.
Can You Prevent Blood Pressure Rising?
There are both preventable and unpreventable causes linked to the development of blood pressure. As a person ages, they need to be watching their blood pressure constantly. When risks or a rise in blood pressure is identified, appropriate actions should be taken.
Since there are preventable risk factors, it means it is possible to lower the risk of hypertension.
The first step to reducing the risk of hypertension is to consider a person’s diet. This is most often the reason behind a rise in blood pressure levels. Several foods can cause blood pressure to increase. Sodium is one of the most important factors to take into consideration.
One review paper explains that the intake of more than five grams of sodium per day leads to a serious increase in blood pressure levels. The same paper presents evidence that even a slight reduction in sodium intake can help among the general population.
When sodium intake is reduced, blood pressure levels decline significantly among hypertension patients. Additionally, it is also noted that the risk of cardiovascular problems declines with a reduction in sodium intake.
It is also important to realize what foods are high in sodium. The salt added to meals is not the only source of sodium. With a modern Western diet, people are constantly exposed to sodium.
A few examples of foods that contain a high amount of sodium:
- Processed foods (bacon, sausages, deli meats)
- Condiments (salad dressings and soy sauce)
- Pasta meal mixes
- Fried food
- Fatty meat cuts
- Canned soups
A large variety of snacks that people binge on during the day can also be high in sodium. Pretzels and potato chips are two good examples. While popcorn is often considered a healthy snack, commercialized options tend to contain a lot of added salts. Additionally, salted peanuts are another snack option with high sodium content.
Another important factor to consider when trying to lower blood pressure is physical activity. An alarmingly high percentage of the global population do not get enough exercise. Physical activity is critical to the well-being of the human body. When a person fails to exercise enough, they put themselves at risk for several complications. One of these includes hypertension.
Exercising on a daily basis is an essential lifestyle option for reducing the risk of hypertension.
Physical activity has several other benefits for the body. It helps to reduce weight in overweight people. Since obesity is known as another contributing factor, exercise targets two risks at the same time. Exercise also helps to build up muscle mass and strength, improves sleep, and boosts energy levels.
Treating High Blood Pressure
A diagnosis for hypertension is needed before a doctor can prescribe the patient with medical treatment. Many people only realize they have hypertension once a doctor measures their blood pressure.
Once diagnosed, an appropriate treatment plan needs to be provided to the patient. The doctor will often start by looking at the patient’s current lifestyle. The individual’s weight will be taken into consideration, as well. Factors contributing to the high blood pressure need to be identified – this is a more effective strategy for addressing hypertension.
Overweight and obese patients may be advised to lose weight. People with an unhealthy lifestyle may be advised to adopt a healthier diet and exercise more.
There is high blood pressure medication that can be used to help too. A few different types of drugs can be prescribed to the patient. The doctor will first analyze the severity of the condition and any complications that might have already developed. They will then provide the patient with the most appropriate medication.
Some types of medication that may be prescribed include:
- Calcium channel blockers
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors
Many people will be required to take the medication for the rest of their lives. There are many cases where treatment may not require the use of these drugs. In such scenarios, a doctor may first want to see if a few lifestyle changes could reduce blood pressure levels.
Monitoring High Blood Pressure As You Age
As we have noted previously, blood pressure levels do tend to increase with age. By the age of 45, the risk becomes more significant for developing hypertension. This further increases at 60, with only around 40% of people having the ability to maintain a normal blood pressure reading at this age.
When a patient has high blood pressure, they need to realize the condition may worsen as they age. Continuous monitoring of blood pressure levels becomes a critical element. This is also important for the aging individual not diagnosed with hypertension.
It is often possible to identify the condition during an early stage by constantly monitoring blood pressure readings. At this time, it is usually much easier to treat the problem.
Some form of noting system should accompany the monitoring of blood pressure. Taking down notes of blood pressure readings can help the patient provide their doctor with more data. This ensures the doctor has a better understanding of how current treatments are working. Adjustments to the treatment plan can then be made. With this strategy, the patient is getting a more optimized treatment plan – one that works best for them in particular.
Patients with diagnosed hypertension should measure their blood pressure readings more frequently. Buying a device to monitor at home is a good option. These devices are generally easy to use and will help the patient make frequent notes of their blood pressure. It also ensures the patient has a way of identifying extremely high blood pressure spikes – in which case they can contact their doctor or a medical facility for assistance before serious complications develop.
Cardiovascular disease has a strong connection to high blood pressure. While low blood pressure is also a serious concern, over one-third of the population is expected to have hypertension.
When systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure increase too much, it can cause serious side-effects in the body. Learning how to reduce blood pressure among the aging population is a critical step to reduce the effects that hypertension has on the heart, kidneys, and the brain.