High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is very common among older adults. As the body ages, arteries begin to lose their elasticity, causing blood pressure to rise. Usually, this increase doesn’t cause any of the symptoms you’d typically see with other kinds of heart disease. Most people don’t even realize their blood pressure is outside of the healthy range. However, more than 70% of U.S. seniors have high blood pressure according to the American Heart Association.
Although you may feel fine, blood pressure that stays too high for too long can lead to serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, eye problems, and renal failure. Fortunately, blood pressure is relatively easy to manage – even later in life. Besides the wide variety of medications available to treat blood pressure issues, there are also many simple lifestyle changes you can make to keep your heart healthy as you age.
Staying physically active is incredibly beneficial for managing blood pressure. The goal of exercising for heart health is to just get your blood pumping – there’s no specific workout you have to do. So activities like regularly walking, sweeping the floors, and even chair exercise can all help you lower your blood pressure over time.
Balance your diet
Too much sodium, caffeine, and alcohol can wreak havoc on your blood pressure levels. Being overweight also increases your risk for hypertension. However, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains (especially oats), poultry, fish, and low-fat dairy may help to lower blood pressure. Many doctors recommend following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension eating plan (AKA: the DASH diet) for best results.
No matter your age, blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day, reaching the lowest levels during deep sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep can help lower your average blood pressure and reduce your risk of risk of heart disease and stroke.
Feelings of stress can spike your blood pressure, and chronic stress may contribute to chronically high blood pressure levels. In times of stress, stop and try simple relaxation techniques (such as deep breathing exercises or meditation) and avoid unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating, smoking, or drinking. You may also want to see a doctor to address any underlying anxiety issues if you feel you may have them.