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Exercise and other kinds of physical activity help keep arteries flexible and also reduce activity in the sympathetic nervous system , which can tighten blood vessels and boost blood pressure.

Hypertension: What You Need to Know as You Age

If you already have high blood pressure, regular exercise alone could lower your numbers by 8 to 10 points, according to the American Heart Association. Feed healthy blood pressure. The minerals calcium, magnesium and potassium found in low-fat and fat-free dairy products, such as milk and yogurt, as well as in produce and dried beans help your body regulate blood pressure. Too little can raise your blood pressure. So can high amounts of sodium—found in many processed foods—by making your body retain water which boosts blood volume and even tightening small blood vessels.

Saturated fat found in meat, cheese, butter, full-fat dairy products and many processed foods may also raise blood pressure. Quit smoking.

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Smoking damages arteries and raises the risk of heart disease. Soothe stress. One technique, meditation, has been shown to reduce the risk for heart attacks and strokes in people with high blood pressure. To bring your high blood pressure down to a healthy level, your doctor will likely recommend healthy lifestyle changes, medication or both. Losing 5 percent to 10 percent of your body weight, reducing sodium, improving your diet and exercising regularly will usually result in a lowering of your blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor will still recommend these changes along with blood pressure medications. You may need medications that work on several different mechanisms to bring your blood pressure down. Or your doctor may be able to give you lower medication doses, and reduce the chances for side effects, by combining two or three medications.

Home truths about high blood pressure

Your doctor may increase your dose gradually. Report side effects. He or she may be able to make adjustments or switch your medication. Learn more about the symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of hypertension in the Health Library.


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High blood pressure often has no symptoms. That can make staying on track with healthy lifestyle changes and medication challenging—you may not feel the difference. These steps can help you stay committed to controlling your blood pressure on a day-to-day basis:. Use a medication reminder system. Monitor at home. See your doctor as recommended.

If your blood pressure is within a healthy range and you do not need medication, you may only need a recheck every two years. Watch for lows and highs. Sometimes blood pressure medications can reduce your blood pressure too much. If you have signs of low blood pressure—dizziness, fainting, blurred vision, nausea—contact your doctor. On the other hand, if your systolic top number rises to or higher or if your diastolic bottom number rises to or higher, get immediate medical help.

Hypertension: What You Need to Know as You Age | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins experts continue their work in understanding and treating high blood pressure in ways that translate into better health today. Notable research you can access includes these findings:. Link found between taking blood pressure medications and reduced risk of dementia. Intensive treatment lowers blood pressure in African-American men. Urban African-American men face a high risk for untreated hypertension—with fatal consequences. Ask how you can assist with medications. Support healthy efforts. Cheerleading a new habit can inspire your loved one to stick with it.

But trying to control behavior can backfire. Get healthier together. Thus in one community study patients with normal blood pressure but high anger temperament scores as characterised by frequent or long-lasting anger reactions with little or no provocation were shown to have an odds ratio of for fatal or non-fatal cardiac events.

While expert opinion differs over the extent to which blood pressure may be a factor, Rothwell points out that it is well known that stress raises BP and that people who are exposed to stressful situations experience greater blood pressure volatility. That's almost certainly due to stress," says Rothwell. But while the bond between blood and emotion is embedded in everyday language — we talk of people being "sanguine" or "hot-blooded" — the average GP tends to have little time for such insights.

When we are young our bodies can more easily accommodate sudden fluctuations in blood pressure, but as we get older our blood vessels become stiffer and less flexible. This is particularly a problem in the west and in Asian societies such as Japan. The question is why? Many experts believe the answer is salt. Nor does their blood pressure increase with age.

By contrast, in the west, where people eat an average of grams of salt per day, blood pressure rises with age by an average of 0. That may not sound a lot, but over the average lifespan that is a difference of between 35 and 44mm Hg systolic.

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According to Professor MacGregor, who also chairs Consensus Action on Salt and Health Cash , in serious scientific circles the connection between salt and higher blood pressure is no longer disputed. Yet for all the scientific consensus, salt-denial stories continue to enjoy wide currency in the media. At the same time, Nice has called for the acceleration of national salt reduction targets, with the aim of reducing the average British adult's intake to 6g a day by , and 3g by For all the publicity about the dangers of hypertension, however, most people remain blissfully unaware they are at risk.

One of the biggest surprises for me was the discovery that my diet was not nearly as good as I thought it was: indeed, on some days I was consuming as much as 10g of salt, nearly twice the recommended amount this is a particular problem at Christmas: a turkey dinner adds up to around 15g. In the weeks and months that followed my diagnosis, I cut out processed foods and bread one slice of bread contains an average of 0.

I also cut out coffee and experimented with acupuncture, which appeared to reduce my blood pressure but only for short periods. Mindful of my father's sudden mood swings, I also made an effort to keep "irritations" in proportion and to check my temper — not always successfully. Finally, having read about the health benefits of dog ownership dogs are thought to act as "stress buffers" , I acquired a fluffy white goldendoodle. Murphy certainly gets me out more, which may in itself be healthier.

On the other hand, he also has a tendency to steal children's balls and hare into the road after stray cats, which has its own stresses. The bad news is that I will probably have to take the drugs for the rest of my life. Unless, of course, Nice revises its definition of hypertension upwards again and I miraculously find myself back in the "safe" zone. Topics High blood pressure The Observer.