Blood pressure is an important measure of health in older adults. High blood pressure is a risk factor for things like stroke and heart disease, so knowing whether your aging relative’s blood pressure falls within the normal range is important. But what is normal? Because the guidelines changed in 2017, some people are still confused about what is considered high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Basics
There are two numbers in a blood pressure reading, diastolic and systolic. Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number of the reading. It’s the amount of pressure blood places on the walls of the arteries between heartbeats when the heart is resting. Systolic blood pressure is the top number. It’s the pressure on the arteries during a heartbeat.
Blood pressure is measured with a device called a sphygmomanometer. It has a cuff that is placed around the arm and is inflated by a machine or by someone pumping it up by hand. The cuff stops the person’s pulse and the reading is taken. Doctors usually take at least two blood pressure readings and base their determination on the average.
Normal vs. Abnormal
Doctors put blood pressure in one of four following categories to determine what kind of treatment is needed.
Normal: The upper number is below 120 and the lower number is below 80. To keep blood pressure within the normal range, the seniors should follow a healthy lifestyle.
Elevated: The upper number is between 120 and 129. The lower number is below 80. Again, the doctor may suggest sticking to a healthy lifestyle.
Stage 1 High Blood Pressure: The top number is between 130 and 139 and the bottom number is between 80 and 89. While the doctor will still recommend a healthy lifestyle, they may also suggest taking one or more medications to control blood pressure.
Stage 2 High Blood Pressure: The top number is 140 or higher and the bottom number is 90 or higher. The doctor will likely prescribe medication and suggest lifestyle changes.
If your aging relative is diagnosed with high blood pressure, a senior care provider can help them to begin adopting the lifestyle changes suggested by the doctor. For example, a senior care provider can help the elder adult to lose weight by preparing healthy meals and helping them to be more active. A senior care provider can also make sure the meals they cook are low in sodium. In addition to helping with a healthy lifestyle, a senior care provider can also offer medication reminders, so your loved one never misses a dose.