For diseases, science has come a long way, but there is still controversy as to optimal blood pressure values, how to control it and even how to measure it. When, in the 1970s, Raymond R. Townsend studied medicine, the formula for calculating blood pressure was simple. “We were taught that the normal upper value was 100 plus the person’s age,” recalls this professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Now we know that when that figure is very high, what happens over the years, involves danger.”
What no one argues is that hypertension can lead to heart attacks, strokes, or strokes, visual problems and even dementia.
Here are 15 facts about blood pressure that could save your life:
1. Blood pressure is higher over the years
At 76, Suzanne Oparil has excellent blood pressure. “Luckily, I have good genes,” says the University of Alabama at Birmingham professor of medicine whose research has been instrumental in setting standards for hypertension. Like her, many will never suffer from this disease, but other people will see an increase in the upper value, or systolic pressure ( PS ), more or less after the age of 40. Hypertension is spoken when blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or greater. In part, this is because the arteries tend to tighten with age.
2. Hypertension is Usually Silent
One can have blood pressure in the skies and not realize it , unless it is measured, and yet it is difficult to know the exact figures . According to Oparil, the values can vary between 30 and 40 points throughout the day, with descents at night and promotions in the morning. “Sometimes it rises when a doctor measures it, a phenomenon called ‘white coat hypertension’.” The best way to establish real values is to resort to a 24-hour test that measures pressure two, three or four times per hour during the day and every 30 minutes at night. The alternative is to buy a home blood pressure monitor with an arm cuff and measure it several times throughout the day.
3. Monitor the PS value after 50 years
That number, PS, represents the force with which the heart pumps blood to the whole body when it contracts. Diastolic pressure ( PD ), the lower value, represents the pressure between one beat and another, when the heart relaxes. “The top figure is the most important because it indicates the maximum strength that arteries and vital organs support in each heartbeat,” says Dr. Sheila Sahni, an expert in cardiovascular disorders at the Ronald Reagan Medical Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. “When the pressure is high, it can damage the kidneys, eyes, brain and even the walls of blood vessels . ” PD numbers usually reach a maximum level around 55 years of age, and then gradually decline.
4. Experts Differ in Ideal Pressure
Scientists are still debating about the ideal blood pressure of people over 50 years. Until recently it was advised to maintain PS below 140 mmHg, and below 150 mmHg after 60 years. In September of 2015, the findings from the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Study ( SPRINT ) put that recommendation down. The study involved more than 9,300 people who were or were at high risk for heart disease (almost 30 percent were 75 years or older), divided into two groups at random: the first was to reduce at any cost their PS to less than 120 mmHg, and the second, less than 140 mmHg. The risk of having a cardiovascular disease or stroke was only 25 percent lower in the first group during the three-year study.
5. Optimal figures vary from person to Person
The official guidelines are just a guide for doctors and patients “because each person is different,” says Dr. Townsend, a hypertension expert. In those with low cardiovascular risk, moderately high PS numbers may be acceptable. It is the same case of high-risk patients who do not tolerate the side effects of aggressive treatments. “With a 69-year-old who takes four different antihypertensives to have a PS of 135, one should carefully evaluate whether another drug is worth adding,” says Townsend. The best advice is to ask your doctor what is appropriate for you. 6. A healthy lifestyle is as useful as medicine Eating less salt and eating lots of fruits and vegetables can lower blood pressure by up to five points. Slimming also helps . Studies indicate that reducing five pounds of weight can lower the PS by more than four points. Swedish researchers recently concluded that regular physical activity can reduce the PS of hypertensive people by 11 points , on average. “If you have mildly or moderately high blood pressure, adopting healthy habits could free you from taking drugs,” says Dr. Glenn M. Chertow, a professor at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.
7. Coffee ups the pressure, but do not be alarmed
Researchers have long known that a loaded cup of coffee elevates blood pressure. As per an article published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the PS rises eight points on average after ingesting between 200 and 300 milligrams of caffeine (or between 1.5 and 3 cups of 240 milliliters of coffee). The pressure stays high for about three hours, but there seem to be no long-term effects.
8. Over-the-counter medications can raise blood pressure
“Many anti-cold medicines contain pseudoephedrine, vasoconstrictor compound that raises blood pressure,” warns Sahni. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as naproxen and ibuprofen, also raise blood pressure by three to six points. Regular use of these medications may increase cardiovascular risk .
9. Moderate ingestion of salt over the years
Salty foods can raise blood pressure; however, the recommendation to moderate salt intake has been controversial for a long time. The reason? This seasoning does not affect everyone alike . We tend to consume more salt as we age because our sense of taste declines. The recommended maximum intake of sodium for adults over 50 is between 1,500 and 2,000 milligrams. Processed foods often contain lots of salt, so check the labels on the products and choose those that are low in sodium. When adding salt, remember that a quarter teaspoon contains 575 milligrams of sodium.
10. New drugs are not necessarily better
Doctors often prescribe diuretics as the initial treatment of hypertension. These drugs, which help remove excess water and sodium from the body, were among the first remedies available against this condition. Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors are other drugs that are less time consuming in the market and their function is to prevent the body from producing a known hormone that raises blood pressure. Angiotensin 2 receptor antagonists hinder the action of the same hormone. Several studies show that new drugs are no more effective than diuretics, but they usually cause fewer adverse reactions .
11. It is useful to strengthen the forearms
According to a medical report published in 2013 on alternative ways to reduce blood pressure, tightening spring clips could lower this by as much as 10 percent. These effective accessories are sold in sporting goods stores. Keep the tweezers tight for two minutes in each repetition. Do a daily session of 12 to 15 minutes of this exercise, three times a week. 12. Taking deep breaths can help Reducing the respiratory rate to six cycles of inhalation and exhalation every 30 seconds results in decreases of up to three points in PS, even temporarily.
13. Many people need to take more than one drug
If your blood pressure is moderately high, an antihypertensive may be enough to reduce it; however, many people end up taking several. Separately, antihypertensives typically lower blood pressure by only a few points. And the time comes when the effect stabilizes even though the dose is increased. What we do is prescribe various types of drugs, according to the patient , to optimize the effects.
14. You can also bring pressure through the floors
The greatest risk is that the person stands up and his blood pressure is so low that blood can not reach the brain (orthostatic hypotension). Older adults in particular are at risk of falling and fractured. If the antihypertensive makes you dizzy, go to your doctor. It may be wise to change the treatment.
15. It is essential not to discontinue treatment
It is usually enough to adopt healthy habits and take drugs to reduce cardiovascular risk. But once you achieve this, you must stick to the treatment and those habits. “Many people forget to take the medicines or, if they have adverse reactions, stop taking them,” says Sahni. If we stop the medication, the pressure will rise again . As PS tends to rise with age, measuring blood pressure regularly is also important. Most people with hypertension need a medication adjustment from time to time.