You can have high blood pressure, or hypertension, and still feel just fine. That's because high blood pressure often does not cause signs of illness that you can see or feel. But, high blood pressure, sometimes called "the silent killer," is very common in older people and a major health problem. If high blood pressure isn't controlled with lifestyle changes and medicine, it can lead to stroke, heart disease, eye problems, kidney failure, and other health problems. High blood pressure can also cause shortness of breath during light physical activity or exercise.
3. National Vascular Disease Prevention Alliance. Guidelines for the management of absolute cardiovascular disease risk; 2012. https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/images/uploads/publications/Absolute-CVD-Risk-Full-Guidelines.pdf (accessed Feb 2017). myDr myDr provides comprehensive Australian health and medical information, images and tools covering symptoms, diseases, tests, medicines and treatments, and nutrition and fitness.Related ArticlesHeart: how your heart pumps blood around your bodySee our diagram showing how your heart pumps blood to the organs and tissues of your body. Blood pressure: what is your target?Why is blood pressure important? Find out why (and how) doctors measure blood pressure, whAnimation: how your heart pumpsView our animated diagram of the heart beating and see how blood is pumped through the heart.High blood pressure treatments If you have high blood pressure your doctor may recommend lifestyle measures, such asHigh blood pressure should be treatedHaving hypertension (high blood pressure) increases your risk of serious conditions such as stroke aAdvertisement
Your heart is a muscle about the size of your fist. It’s made up of four chambers and contains four valves. The valves open and close to let blood move through the chambers and into and out of your heart. According to the American Heart Association, your heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute, or about 100,000 times per day. As it beats, blood is forced against your artery walls.
Fruits offer lots of fiber and vitamins that are good for your heart. Many also have potassium and magnesium, which lower blood pressure. Have four to five servings of fruit every day. One serving is a medium apple or orange, or 1/2 cup of frozen, fresh, or canned fruit. One-half cup of fruit juice or 1/4 cup of dried fruit also counts as a serving. Try adding bananas or berries to your breakfast cereal or have fruit for dessert.
In some cases, medication is necessary to lower blood pressure. It really depends on how high your blood pressure is and other risk factors, like family history of heart attack and stroke. Based on these risks and your current lifestyle, your doctor may prescribe common hypertension medications like lisinopril, amlodipine, losartan, and hydrochlorothiazide.
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.

Because high blood pressure doesn’t cause symptoms, once you’ve been diagnosed with it, it’s critical to measure your blood pressure regularly. This is true even if you’re taking blood pressure medication. And whether you’ve got high or low blood pressure, tracking your systolic and diastolic numbers is a great way to gauge how well lifestyle changes or medications are working.
Vegetables give you fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They don't have a lot of calories or fat -- a good recipe for controlling blood pressure. Have four to five servings of vegetables a day. That’s 1/2 cup of cooked or raw vegetables, 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice for each serving. Iffy about veggies? Start by adding a salad at lunch and dinner.

Healthcare professionals use a stethoscope and a manual sphygmomanometer to measure your blood pressure. Typically they take the reading above your elbow. The sphygmomanometer has a bladder, cuff, bulb, and a gauge. When the bulb is pumped it inflates the bladder inside the cuff, which is wrapped around your arm. This inflation will stop the blood flow in your arteries. The stethoscope is used to listen for sound of the heartbeat, and no sound indicates that there is no flow. As the pressure is released from the bladder, you will hear the sound of the blood flowing again. That point becomes systolic reading. The diastolic reading is when you hear no sound again, which means that the blood flow is back to normal.

Physical examination may include listening to the heart and lungs, feeling for pulse in the wrist and ankles, and feeling and listening to the abdomen looking for signs of an enlarged aorta. The examiner may also listen in the neck for carotid bruits (sounds made by a narrowed artery in the neck) and in the abdomen for bruits made by an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Aneurysm. Over time, the constant pressure of blood moving through a weakened artery can cause a section of its wall to enlarge and form a bulge (aneurysm). An aneurysm can potentially rupture and cause life-threatening internal bleeding. Aneurysms can form in any artery throughout your body, but they're most common in your body's largest artery (aorta).
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Half of American adults have this life-threatening condition, yet many are unaware or simply don’t take it seriously. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Hypertension is manageable and even preventable, but you have to know your risk factors and get your blood pressure checked (regularly!) to see if you’re at risk. Let’s take a closer look at what blood pressure actually is, how hypertension works, and how you can prevent the effects of high blood pressure to stave off heart disease.
Lifelong control of hypertension will minimize the risk of developing heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and a variety of other illnesses. Unlike other illnesses in which medications are taken for only a short period of time, high blood pressure medication is usually expected to be taken for the rest of the individual's life. It is uncommon, but not rare, that significant lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure readings to normal.
Mindfulness: The practice of living in the moment and focusing all of your attention on the present experience (in other words, not thinking about what's on your to-do list while you’re eating a quick lunch at your desk). Studies have found many health benefits to practicing mindfulness, including stress reduction, which in turn can lower blood pressure and make heart disease less likely.
Isolated systolic hypertension can be caused by underlying conditions such as artery stiffness, an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) or diabetes. Occasionally, it can be caused by heart valve problems. It is the most common form of high blood pressure in people older than age 65, but it is possible for younger people to be affected by this type of high blood pressure as well.
Not everyone is sensitive to sodium, meaning that not all individuals who eat a high sodium diet will develop high blood pressure as a result. Rather than acting as your own test subject to see if you are salt-sensitive or not, it is advisable to try to follow the American Heart Association's recommendation of less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium (less than 1 teaspoon of table salt) per day. Remember that this is a goal amount for the average of what you eat. If you overindulge in salty foods on day, balance your intake with very low sodium foods the next.
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.

In isolated systolic high blood pressure (isolated systolic hypertension, or ISH), systolic blood pressure is elevated (130 mm Hg or higher), but diastolic blood pressure stays below 80 mm Hg. This type of high blood pressure is more common in older adults, especially older women. In fact, the majority of people older than 60 who have hypertension have isolated systolic hypertension.
It can be difficult to make many diet changes at once, especially if you have been diagnosed with two medical conditions. Try making one healthy change a week for four weeks. Once you have mastered these improvements, reward yourself with something you enjoy, like a trip to the spa or to the movies. The second month, focus on maintaining these healthy habits and adding healthy variety to your meals. When you feel ready, try a fifth and sixth healthy change, and don't forget to reward yourself for the positive changes that you have made.

She'll inflate the cuff to a pressure higher than your systolic blood pressure, and it will tighten around your arm. Then she'll release it. As the cuff deflates, the first sound she hears through the stethoscope is the systolic blood pressure. It sounds like a whooshing noise. The point where this noise goes away marks the diastolic blood pressure.


However, sometimes a high reading can occur temporarily and then your numbers will return to normal. If your blood pressure measures at this level, your doctor will likely take a second reading after a few minutes have passed. A second high reading indicates that you’ll need treatment either as soon as possible or immediately depending on whether or not you have any of the symptoms described above.
Heart rate: Your heart rate is how fast your heart is beating. It's also called your pulse. By checking it when you're exercising, you can track how hard your heart is working. Your target heart rate range depends on your age and how intense the activity is that you're doing. Check with your doctor on that, especially if you have heart disease. You can wear a heart rate monitor or learn to take your pulse using just your fingers, preferably at your wrist.

Essential hypertension is also greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. The link between salt and high blood pressure is especially compelling. People living on the northern islands of Japan eat more salt per capita than anyone else in the world and have the highest incidence of essential hypertension. By contrast, people who add no salt to their food show virtually no traces of essential hypertension.
The results, which were published in the Journal of Human Hypertension, showed that those with higher cholesterol levels had significantly higher blood pressure levels during exercise than those with lower cholesterol levels. The researchers concluded that even mildly increased cholesterol levels could influence blood pressure. They added that cholesterol seems to mess up how blood vessels contract and release, which can also affect the pressure needed to push blood through them.

Recent updates to guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology changed the definition of high blood pressure or hypertension for most people. High blood pressure is now generally defined as 130 or higher for the first number, or 80 or higher for the second number (previously it was 140/90). However, there are important considerations for older adults in deciding whether to start treatment for high blood pressure, including other health conditions and overall fitness. If your blood pressure is above 130/80, your doctor will evaluate your health to determine what treatment is needed to balance risks and benefits in your particular situation.

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