Approximately 75 million American adults have high blood pressure. If your parent is over 65, their chances of developing or having high blood pressure increase dramatically. In fact, 64 percent of men ages 65 to 74 and over 60 percent of women in the same age group have high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is a measurement of the pressure in the arteries. The top number represents the pressure when the heart is beating and the bottom number represents the pressure when the heart is still. The magic number is considered to be 120/80; however, researchers have discovered that for older frail adults, a slightly elevated pressure may be beneficial. Blood pressure that hits 140/90 is considered high.
Why is it Important
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is considered the silent killer, so named because it offers no warning signs. The increased pressure eventually damages the arteries and can lead to kidney damage, loss of vision, strokes, heart attacks, heart failure and a host of other ailments.
How to Help
Helping your loved one make a few crucial changes can go a long way in ensuring their long-term health. A few of these include:
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “Reducing the average amount of salt or sodium that people eat from 3,400 milligrams to 2,300 milligrams per day may reduce cases of high blood pressure by 11 million people.”
If they smoke—stop. Smoking can cause build-up of fatty plaques within the arterial wall, also known as atherosclerosis. The narrowing of the arteries increase one’s blood pressure even further. If your loved one needs help quitting there are tools and tips to do just that at smokefree.gov.
Up their fruit and vegetable intake to include at least five servings per day.
Reduce or eliminate packaged and prepared foods, as well as sugary drinks and soda. Suggest they eat food that is as close to its natural state as possible. This would mean eating whole grains instead of processed grains and high-quality protein such as wild-caught salmon and free-range chicken. In addition, they will want to reduce their intake of fat and alcohol.
Include exercise in their schedule for at least 30 minutes a day for 5 days per week. Start slowly and work up if they are new to physical fitness.
Incorporating these healthy lifestyle changes will often reduce high blood pressure without the need for medication. If they are on medication, keep an at-home monitor in order to keep track of their blood pressure and make sure it does not dip down below normal. Once their blood pressure starts changing, make an appointment with your parent’s primary health care provider who may need to adjust the medication.
Home Health Care Provider
A home health care provider can offer support and assistance as your loved one embraces the necessary lifestyle changes. They can prepare healthy meals, do the grocery shopping, and accompany your parent on daily walks or to exercise classes. Sometimes a little camaraderie and a cheering section can go a long way in helping people make important changes.