For older people, often the first number (systolic) is 130 or higher, but the second number (diastolic) is less than 80. This problem is called isolated systolic hypertension, which is due to age-related stiffening of the major arteries. It is the most common form of high blood pressure in older people and can lead to serious health problems (stroke, heart disease, eye problems, and kidney failure) in addition to shortness of breath during light physical activity, lightheadedness upon standing too fast, and falls. Isolated systolic hypertension is treated in the same way as regular high blood pressure (130 or higher for the first number, or 80 or higher for the second number) but may require more than one type of blood pressure medication. If your doctor determines that your systolic pressure is above a normal level for your age, ask how you can lower it.
Blood pressure isn’t just a number. Chronically elevated blood pressure (hypertension) significantly increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, erectile dysfunction, eye disease (retinopathy), and kidney disease. Heart disease and stroke are two of the top five causes of death in the US (heart disease is #1), and hypertension is such a big contributor to both that the CDC claims hypertension was at least partially responsible for 410,000 deaths in the US in 2014.
Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into blood vessels, which carry the blood throughout the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood out to the body and contributes to hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, to stroke, kidney disease, and to heart failure.
Low- and no-fat dairy foods are good sources of calcium and protein, which can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Try to get three servings of dairy every day. Choose skim or 1% milk and low- or no-fat cheeses and yogurt. Frozen low-fat yogurt is OK, too. One serving equals 1 cup of yogurt or milk, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese -- about the size of three dice.
Women may have sexual dysfunction as a side effect of high blood pressure, as well. High blood pressure can reduce blood flow to your vagina. For some women, this leads to a decrease in sexual desire or arousal, vaginal dryness, or difficulty achieving orgasm. Improving arousal and lubrication can help. Like men, women can experience anxiety and relationship issues due to sexual dysfunction.
Not only the degree of obesity is important, but also the manner in which the body accumulates extra fat. Some people gain weight around their belly (central obesity or "apple-shaped" people), while others store fat around their hips and thighs ("pear-shaped" people). "Apple-shaped" people tend to have greater health risks for high blood pressure than "pear-shaped" people.
Instead of an arbitrary goal to “lose weight,” talk with your doctor about a healthy weight for you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a weight loss goal of one to two pounds a week. That means starting off eating 500 calories less per day than what you normally eat. Then decide on what physical activity you can start in order to reach that goal. If exercising five nights a week is too hard to work into your schedule, aim for one more night than what you’re doing right now. When that fits comfortably into your schedule, add another night.