by Vladimire Herard


Use of prescribed drugs, intake control of salt, drinking in moderation and quitting cigarette smoke leads you to healthy blood pressure and averts heart disease and stroke, the American Diabetes Association and hospital researchers say.


Through research, the ADA and researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and other universities find that nine Americans out of every ten will develop high blood pressure.


As a result, they are at greater risk for blindness, dementia, diabetes, heart attack, kidney disease and stroke if they don’t follow a healthy diet, control the amount of salt they consume, lose weight, exercise, quit smoking and drink responsibly.


In fact, all the aforementioned strategies would go a long way towards resolving an elevated blood pressure or hypertension as much as if not even more than prescribed drugs, researchers add.


Blood pressure consists of two numbers, the systolic blood pressure and the diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure, the first number, is the force with which the heart pumps. The diastolic blood pressure, the second number, is the force between heart pumps.


According to ADA guidelines, the blood pressure goals of most seniors, especially diabetic patients, should be less than 130/80 mm Hg though some primary care physicians will accept 140/80-plus mmg Hg.


For the systolic number, below 120 is normal. Above this figure to 139 is prehypertension. About 140 and greater is high blood pressure.


Similarly, about 80 or below is normal diastolic blood pressure. Above this amount is considered prehypertension. Roughly 90 and above is deemed hypertension.


To best measure their blood pressure, seniors can ask their doctors or nurses to provide them with blood pressure machines so they can keep track of their readings at home.


One such provider is Omron, which manufactures its wrist blood pressure monitors with A.P.S., also known as advanced positioning sensors, and IntelliSense for at-home use.


The hospital researchers find in their studies that, if seniors who suffer from hypertension lower their systolic blood pressure by 20mmHG and diastolic pressure by 13mmHG, their life spans can increase by nearly three years.


The study revealed that diabetics benefitted most from lowering blood pressure by this amount. Additionally, women stood to gain more in longevity and health benefits from following this practice than men would, research shows.


In terms of eating healthy, seniors are advised to only eat the amount of food they truly need and to ensure they are nutritious and low in fat and sugar as well as salt by as much as 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams daily.


This means including more fruits, vegetables, grains, lean proteins and healthy fats into their diets and eliminating processed foods and saturated fats. In particular, consuming kiwi fruit is effective in lowering blood pressure.


While some are safer than others, seniors may consider trying supplements to lower their blood pressure figures. They may try over-the-counter versions of fish oil or CoQ10 for effectiveness after consulting with their physicians.


In the process, seniors, especially those who are overweight or obese and thus at risk for high blood pressure, ought to keep a sound body mass index, also known as BMI, of a range of 18.5 to 24.9. This calls for reading food labels carefully and steering clear of high-sodium, processed and boxed foods.


To do so, patients must adopt a regular exercise regimen that will boost their blood circulation and render their heart stronger. They can start with 15 to 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise for most of the week.


Despite their personal challenges and other life stressors, seniors should also seek to manage stress, which, because of the presence of such harmful chemicals as  adrenaline and cortisol, can cause faster heartbeats and tighter blood vessels. Both serve to raise their high blood pressure.


They can achieve stress management by taking part in relaxing activity, meditation or deep breathing exercises. Seniors can also work to curb their daily or weekly intake of alcohol to no more than one drink daily and to cease tobacco use and avoid secondhand smoke altogether.


At the same time, despite their side effects, seniors who are prescribed drugs to manage blood pressure ought to take their medication as advised.


This includes diuretics that scale back on the amount of fluid in the blood, which eradicates extra sodium, ACE inhibitors, alpha-blockers, calcium channel blockers and anti-adrenaline beta-blockers that all tighten your blood vessels.


Should they decide to stop taking medicine, they need to consult with their doctors first.


Seniors can visit with their primary care physicians, cardiologists, dietitians or nutritionists, nurses and naturopathic doctors to develop or finetune their blood pressure treatment plans to include a change in dosage of their medicines or switch drugs or brands completely.


Some drug manufacturers have created prescription programs to enable patients to decrease their blood pressure readings.


For example, Novartis maintains a Take Action for Healthy BP program to enable patients to work with their doctors to set and reach their blood pressure goals.


This includes a prescription for its drugs, a free BP monitor with rebate, a blood pressure machine, a members-only online portal and toll-free number.