Elder health Q&A: Blood Pressure


James McAllister, RN

By James McAllister, RN

How many Americans have high blood pressure?

It is reported that about one in every three American adults has high blood pressure, that’s about 70 million people. However, looking at the American population that is over the age of 60 that percentage goes up and is closer to two in every three Americans. These are startling numbers considering high blood pressure increases your risk for two of the top three causes of death in the United States, heart disease and stroke.

What blood pressure should I have? What is normal blood pressure?

If you are an adult over the age of 50, you want to try to keep your blood pressure at 120/80 or lower. While you are not considered to have high blood pressure when your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 139/89, it is important to understand that the higher your blood pressure, the more strain it places on your heart and arteries. That strain on your body increases your risk for serious health problems in the future. Anything above 140/90 and you will need to consult with your physician.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

The frightening thing about high blood pressure is that despite its serious affects on your health, there are no obvious signs or symptoms. Sometimes referred to as the “silent killer,” high blood pressure is something that you need to be aware of and monitor regularly.

How often should I get my blood pressure checked?

As far as what “regularly” checking your blood pressure means, you need to consult your physician. Each person has different health issues and risks, and only you and your physician really know what’s best for you. If checking blood pressures on your own, please remember that best practice is to do it at the same time and place each day. Blood pressures will fluctuate depending on time of day and level of stress your body is under, or has been under. At the very least you will want to keep your scheduled physicals with your primary care physician, and share with them any readings from other healthcare professionals in between.

What can you do to reduce your risk?

There are several things that you can do to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range:

• Get your blood pressure checked regularly
• Eat a healthy diet
• Maintain a healthy weight
• Be physically active
• Limit alcohol use
• Don’t smoke
• Prevent or treat diabetes
• Take time to relax

Your health is always in your hands. The best and most important thing you can do is be informed and advocate for yourself. Hopefully you have a relationship with your physician where you can discuss your concerns on a regular basis. If you are worried about your blood pressure or other health factors, get in touch with a healthcare provider as soon as you can, and don’t be afraid to ask as many questions as you have!

James McAllister, RN, works for PACE at Element Care in Lynn. For more information, call 877-803-5564 or visit www.elementcare.org. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.