Doctors once shrugged off high blood pressure in their older patients as a normal sign of aging. Some believe this “medical lapse” contributed to the high rates of heart attacks and strokes in people over age 55.
Today, all that has changed. While your odds for high blood pressure do rise with every passing birthday – experts estimate that 90 percent of us will have elevated pressure at some point after age 55 – Lowering it has never been easier.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a silent killer that plays a role in 75 percent of heart attacks and strokes. When modern living and genetics team up to stiffen artery linings, blood pressure increases. This faster, harder flow of blood damages blood vessel walls, making it easier for heart-threatening plaque to form. At the same time, the extra pressure can cause plaque buildups to break off; these are the clots that kill. When clots block the arteries that feed fuel and oxygen to your heart, that’s a heart attack. When clots block the blood vessels to your brain, that’s a stroke. And when they block the vessels to your abdomen, that’s an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Scary stuff.. yet there’s more. High blood pressure can also enlarge and weaken your heart, and even damage your eyes and kidneys.
Lowering your blood pressure can cut your odds of major health problems significantly. Stroke, by 30 percent; heart attack, by 23 percent; heart failure, by 55 percent; dementia risk, by 50 percent. At the same time, it can prevent or delay kidney damage and guard your eyes against vision loss brought on by severe hypertension.
The new thinking about high blood pressure is that lower is always better. The standard advise to keep blood pressure readings below 140/90 isn’t good enough, experts now say.
Damage to arteries actually begins at blood pressure levels that doctors once considered optimal, even stellar. Evidence gathered from 61 blood pressure studies reveals that for most adults, risk of death from heart disease and stroke begin to rise when blood pressure is as low as 115/75. After that, death risk doubles for every 20-point rise in systolic pressure (the first number) and every 10-point rise in diastolic pressure (the second number). On the flip side, lowering your blood pressure could actually help unclog your arteries, a surprising study from the Cleveland Clinic has found.
The good news: It’s worth taking all the small steps you can to cut your risks.
Lifestyle plays an important role in lowering or keeping your blood pressure low, where you want it to be. If you successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you might avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication now, or in the future.
Come back on Monday where I give 13 steps you can do right now for Better Blood Pressure.
Remember, Good Health doesn’t just happen, You have to work at it! See you back here on Monday!
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