Reducing heart disease risk by lowering blood pressure in older adults does not increase the risk of falls, according to research. Seventy-five percent of seniors in the U.S. have hypertension, which is a contributing factor to heart disease and disability.
The target systolic blood pressure was set at 120 mmHg in order to reduce the risk of heart disease. Previously, the target was 140 mmHg, but that number is still high enough to increase the risk of heart disease.
Author of the study Jeff Williamson said, “Some of the most vulnerable ambulatory people in the community who may suffer complications of high blood pressure can benefit from intensive blood pressure lowering, and it is safe to do so. If you look at elderly people who are hospitalized in the year that they become disabled and have to leave their home, about half the time those diagnoses or hospitalizations result from complications of hypertension, like heart failure, stroke, and heart attack.”
The study involved 2,636 participants who were randomized to receive an intensive target systolic blood pressure treatment to achieve 120 mmHg or the standard target of 140 mmHg.
At the start of the study, participants had their blood pressure measured in a quiet room, passed a walking test, and completed a questionnaire. Afterwards, blood pressure was rechecked every three months.
Participants were also checked for eight blood pressure complications, such as hospitalizations, falls, acute kidney injury, and fainting. The researchers found no difference between the two groups based on these complications.
Williamson added, “These findings have substantial implications for the future of high blood pressure therapy in older adults because of its high prevalence in this age group, and because of the devastating consequences high blood pressure complications can have on the independent function of older people.”
“Most of the medications used in SPRINT were generic, so this is a fairly inexpensive way to help prolong the time that people can live independently in their homes and avoid those common conditions that often cause a person to have to move to higher level of care or an institution,” he concluded.
Tips to manage high blood pressure to reduce heart disease risk
Balance your sodium intake: When it comes to blood pressure, we all know that high sodium (salt) levels are truly the enemy. But did you know that low levels are equally harmful? It’s true.
For example, reducing sodium levels in heart failure patients to 1.8 grams a day can actually cause their blood pressure levels to soar. Instead, if you have a heart failure, opt for 2.8 grams and be mindful of food labels – many canned and jarred items are too high on the sodium scale.
Get enough potassium: Just like you need sodium, you also need sufficient potassium levels. Potassium is beneficial as it helps relax artery walls and maintain healthy blood pressure. Incorporate foods high in potassium – like bananas, eggplants, coconut water, and baked potatoes.
Test your blood pressure accurately: Ever noticed that your blood pressure readings at home differ from readings in the doctor’s office? There are many reasons for this, including a condition known as white coat syndrome, where a patient’s blood pressure will actually rise in the presence of a doctor. The position in which your blood pressure is being taken may also contribute to higher blood pressure. If your legs are dangling over an exam table or if you’re talking during the test, your results may be skewed.
For proper readings, feet should be flat on the floor, arm flat on a table, and you should be sitting with back support.
Get readings from both arms: Your doctor, or even yourself, should test both arms, as your blood pressure may vary from arm to arm. The best time of the day to check your blood pressure is one hour after eating breakfast.
Consider other conditions as a cause: There are many reasons for high blood pressure aside from dietary issues. Genetics or other health conditions could be causing your soaring blood pressure, so it’s important that your doctor checks for other underlying causes that may require treatment in order to lower your blood pressure.
By keeping these five factors in mind, you can get a better handle of your blood pressure numbers and maintain overall good health.