Blood pressure tends to increase with age due to a variety of factors including structural changes to blood vessels. While this is “normal,” the guidelines about what is not a normal blood pressure by age no longer adjusts for those over 65 years old.
This comes from a change in recommendations in 2015 by the American Heart Association following an extensive trial over a three year period. As you can see in the chart below, hypertension (elevated blood pressure) starts at 120 mm Hg systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic, no matter the age of the individual.
Click here to learn about low blood pressure in the elderly.
Normal Blood Pressure by Age
WHAT CAUSES NORMAL BLOOD PRESSURE TO INCREASE WITH AGE?
The main cause of increased blood pressure with age is decreased ability of blood vessels to expand. This is caused by decreased elastic tissue which makes your arteries stiffer. With each beat of the heart, the pulse of blood pushed through the arteries increases pressure on the vessels. The more flexible and elastic your arteries are, the less your systolic blood pressure will spike with each pulse. Diastolic blood pressure measures the amount of force placed on the arteries between pulses.
Factors which can lead to increased blood pressure with age include:
Genetic factors: Family history of hypertension greatly increases your risk of high blood pressure, as do some rare genetic disorders affecting the adrenal gland or the thyroid gland.
Lifestyle factors: Smoking, drinking alcohol, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and lack of sleep.
Medical Comorbidities: Kidney disease and sleep apnea will both increase hypertension.
Medications: Over the counter medications including acetaminophen, migraine medications, NSAID’s, cough/cold and asthma medications, and nicotine. Prescription medications including: angiogenesis inhibitors, antidepressants, corticosteroids, cyclosporine, testosterone, estrogen and immunosuppressants.
10 STEPS TO DECREASE BLOOD PRESSURE AS WE AGE
Check blood pressure regularly: The best way to begin the journey to lower blood pressure is to monitor it. Take it daily and write it down. This will help keep blood pressure top of mind and improve your choices throughout the day leading to improved healthy living.
Follow doctor’s orders: If you are prescribed medication for blood pressure, take it as prescribed. As you begin to show improvements, take your daily documentation to your next MD visit and they will be able to adjust your prescription as needed.
Eat heart healthy foods: This includes decreasing sodium intake to 1.5 grams of sodium per day. Learn about and implement the DASH DIET. This heart healthy diet reduces red meat and encourages increased fish, fruits and vegetable consumption.
Quit smoking: Smoking and other forms of nicotine consumption cause significant constriction of blood vessels. This leads to spikes in blood pressure quickly following ingestion and long term decreased elasticity of arteries which will also increase blood pressure.
Decrease alcohol consumption: Alcohol intake over 2 drinks per day for men and 1 per day for women has been shown to cause increase blood pressure. Reduce and limit alcohol consumption.
Maintain a healthy weight: Weight gain has been shown to increase blood pressure. If you are overweight, be encouraged that improvements in blood pressure can be shown with losing just 10 pounds. Getting to and maintaining your ideal body weight will have great health benefits throughout your life.
Create an exercise routine: Consistent exercise for 2-3 hours per week at a moderate intensity has been shown to reduce blood pressure. How to help a loved one begin an exercise program can be found here.
Reduce stress: Stress raises blood pressure, so reducing stress will have a positive effect to lower your blood pressure. Relaxation and meditation are common ways to reduce stress. Watching fish in an aquarium is another less well known way to reduce stress, anxiety and blood pressure.
Get a good night sleep: Quality sleep reduces blood pressure. During restful sleep, the body is entirely relaxed and this calming effect reduces blood pressure. On the other hand if you are not sleeping well, or have sleep apnea, the lack of restful sleep will actually have an opposite effect, increasing blood pressure.
Those 10 tips will help you achieve a normal blood pressure by age and reduce risk of serious side effects related to stress and elevated blood pressure.
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