How to protect your loved one from the effects of high blood pressure

May 3rd, 2019

By: Sharon Roth Maguire, MS, RN, GNP-BC Chief Clinical Quality Officer, BrightStar Care

About 1 out of 3 adults in the U.S.—or about 75 million people—have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The condition—also known as hypertension—can lead to heart attack, kidney problems, heart failure, and stroke.
 
High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because it has no obvious symptoms or signs. But certain risk factors and lifestyle choices can increase an individual’s risk of developing high blood pressure. Let’s look at some of these risk factors and ways you can help keep your loved one’s heart healthy and strong.

Risk Factors

As the American Heart Association notes, it's important to understand how the following risk factors contribute to a senior’s chances of developing high blood pressure:

  • Family history: Your loved one has an increased chance of having high blood pressure if their parents or close relatives had the condition.
  • Age: As your loved one gets older, they have a higher risk of developing hypertension. Blood vessels lose some of their elasticity as we age, and the change can contribute to increased blood pressure.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure until age 64. At age 65 and older, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
  • Race: African Americans and Hispanics are at greater risk of developing high blood pressure than other populations.

The best strategy to monitor the risk of high blood pressure is getting your loved one’s blood pressure checked regularly. It’s a good idea to check it once every three months, but if that’s not possible, once or twice a year is fine. 
 
Your loved one’s primary care provider will check blood pressure at a regular checkup, and most pharmacies have blood pressure machines that provide fairly good readings. Another option is to monitor your loved one's blood pressure at home. The American Heart Association recommends using an automatic, cuff-style, bicep (upper-arm) monitor. Once you’ve selected a blood pressure monitor, bring it to your loved one’s next doctor’s appointment. The doctor can make sure both of you know how to use it and can get results that are as accurate as the doctor’s office equipment can provide.

Lifestyle Choices

You can also help your loved one make changes to their lifestyle so they can better control their blood pressure. Here are some daily habits that can be modified:

  • Diet: Consuming too much sodium increases blood pressure. A healthy diet should be low in salt, total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol, and high in fresh fruits and vegetables. 
  • Activity: A lack of regular exercise can increase your loved one’s chance of developing high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week. That works out to a half-hour of exercise five days a week for your loved one.
  • Weight: Carrying extra weight puts extra strain on the heart and circulatory system that can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. If your loved one is gaining weight, it may be a good idea to consult a physician to discuss strategies for getting back to a healthy weight.
  • Alcohol consumption: Heavy alcohol use can lead to heart failure, stroke, and an irregular heartbeat. It can also cause a dramatic increase in blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women should have no more than one.
  • Smoking and tobacco use: Tobacco use can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure and can damage arteries, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Exposure to secondhand smoke also increases the risk of heart disease.
  • Stress: Too much stress contributes to increased blood pressure. Stress can also encourage behaviors such as poor diet, physical inactivity, and using tobacco or drinking alcohol more than usual. Strategies such as meditation, music or relaxation can lower your loved one’s stress level. 

A Team Approach to Blood Pressure Control

Our BrightStar Care nurses take clients’ blood pressure at the beginning of the care relationship journey as part of a comprehensive health and wellness evaluation, and they review it regularly throughout the course of care. They are happy to help you and your loved one properly monitor blood pressure at home and answer any questions. Our team can work with your loved one on strategies to promote a healthier lifestyle. They can also help your loved one manage their medications to control high blood pressure, as well as other medications they take. And, they can even check blood pressure equipment for proper functioning and help you learn how to take your own or your loved one’s blood pressure.
 
When it comes to heart health, it’s important to look at the big picture. Keep an eye on your loved one’s blood pressure to optimize their overall health.
 
To learn how your loved one might benefit from in-home support and a nurse-led plan of care, call 866-618-7827 or contact a BrightStar Care® home care agency near you.