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High blood pressure is a condition that affects millions of Americans every year. However, just because a person doesn't have an official diagnosis of hypertension, that doesn't mean that he or she shouldn't take steps to keep blood pressure down.
Many people live with borderline blood pressure - not quite high enough to warrant a medical diagnosis, but certainly something that should be addressed and managed. Here are some factors seniors should take into account when it comes to living healthy, even if they don't technically have hypertension.
It's worth paying attention to
Borderline blood pressure may not be considered hypertension from the standpoint of a medical diagnosis, but that one semantic difference doesn't mean people with elevated levels are immune to some of the health risks that come with higher-than-average blood pressure.
According to The Washington Post, hypertension is diagnosed in a person whose blood pressure reads 140/90 - the average healthy blood pressure in an adult is 120/80. But a person may still be vulnerable to health complications before his or her blood pressure hits that magic number. In fact, according to Reuters, people whose blood pressure was defined as borderline are still likely to experience health complications or even death despite not having a hypertension diagnosis.
The source reported on a study finding that 15 percent of stroke deaths and 11 percent of heart disease deaths analyzed during the period of study could have been prevented if "prehypertension" had been eliminated as a risk factor. These and other findings are encouraging doctors to view those with borderline blood pressure as being at higher risk for heart disease, rather than simply being considered to have "normal" blood pressure.
Managing borderline blood pressure
Despite the ties between prehypertension and risk of heart disease and stroke, doctors may still be hesitant to prescribe medications commonly administered to individuals with hypertension. However, this condition can effectively be managed through a series of lifestyle changes.
As with many facets of senior care, prevention is one of the most effective tools for maintaining good health. It's important to receive regular physicals to assess things like heart health and blood pressure, and that is especially true for those who have been identified as having borderline blood pressure. Seniors with prehypertension should receive blood pressure screenings more regularly than those with normal blood pressure so that they can stay on top of its development into possible hypertension. Caregivers and family members may wish to invest in a home blood pressure screening kit to grant seniors the autonomy to manage this aspect of their health care, while assisted living facilities will have medical staff on hand who can perform these procedures.
Important lifestyle factors
Those who have prehypertension that has not yet developed into high blood pressure may see particularly effective results from monitoring and changing lifestyle factors. According to the Mayo Clinic, weight loss is a significant factor that can control risk. In fact, the source noted that losing just 10 pounds can have a positive effect on blood pressure reduction. This effect was noted to be cumulative - the more weight a person loses, the lower his or her risk of developing hypertension will be.
This weight-loss goal is directly tied to two other important factors - diet and exercise. Regular physical activity between 30 and 60 minutes throughout the week can help prevent prehypertension from progressing to the full-blown variety. Similarly, managing diet to include whole grains, leafy greens and fresh fruit, while cutting down on fat and sodium intake, can be a simple but effective method of keeping already-high blood pressure under control.