Adults over 60 have higher risk of stroke, heart attack due to high blood pressure
Reduce salt. Walk more. Eat less. Take your medicine. Quit smoking.
These are among the most important things people can do to lower their blood pressure, the so-called ‘silent killer’ that damages bloods vessels and raises the risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney damage, vision loss, reduced cognitive function and other serious health problems.
Physicians say that managing blood pressure to keep it within a safe level is crucial, especially for older patients.
“As we age, the risks become ever higher,” said Wanpen Vongpatanasin, MD, Medical Director of the Hypertension Clinic at Parkland Health & Hospital System and Professor of Internal Medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center. “Adults 60 and older have twice the rate of hypertension as the general population, with two-thirds affected.”
During American Heart Month in February, healthcare experts are highlighting the importance of managing high blood pressure, or hypertension, which affects about a third of adults in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about half of them have it under control and many people do not know they have it at all.
More than 77,500 Parkland patients have been diagnosed with hypertension, and nearly 50 percent of them are 61 or older.
Dr. Vongpatanasin said recent research has shown the need for more intensive treatment of hypertension in elderly patients to reduce risks.
“The Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) was a landmark clinical trial,” Dr. Vongpatanasin said. “The study found that patients who were assigned to reach a systolic blood pressure goal below 120 — far lower than previous guidelines of 140, and 150 for people over 60 — had their risk of heart attacks and strokes reduced by nearly a third and their risk of death reduced by nearly a quarter.”
“Before implementing intensive lowering of blood pressure, particularly in the elderly, we evaluate each patient to be sure they will not be at greater risk of dizziness or fall with walking,” said Dr. Vongpatanasin. She added that research continues to help determine the safest treatments for elderly hypertensive patients.
“It’s important for doctors to have an open conversation with our patients and find out what’s really going on and then we can address it,” said Elizabeth Moss, PharmD, Senior Clinical Pharmacy Specialist at Parkland . “Sometimes what appears to be resistant hypertension turns out to be caused by a patient’s difficulty in keeping up with his or her prescribed medications.”
For those with hypertension, learning how to monitor their blood pressure at home is important, because high blood pressure is a largely symptomless condition. Ignoring high blood pressure is a dangerous strategy. While there is no cure, managing high blood pressure can allow people to live longer and healthier lives.
Dr. Vongpatanasin said both heredity and lifestyle influence blood pressure. “The likelihood that you’ll have hypertension if your parents had it is quite high,” she said. “African Americans and Hispanics are at greater risk than whites.”
Age, tobacco use, diet and other lifestyle factors also play a significant role.
“There are many things people can do to lower their blood pressure and lower their risk of heart attack and stroke,” Dr. Vongpatanasin said, such as:
• Eating a healthier diet with less salt
• Exercising regularly
• Quitting smoking
• Managing stress
• Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
• Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you're overweight or obese
• Monitoring your blood pressure at home
For patients requiring medication to help lower blood pressure, Dr. Vongpatanasin said there are many good options available. “The important thing is to get your blood pressure checked regularly. Your doctor can help you decide what mechanisms are best for you to help lower your blood pressure if you have hypertension.”
For more information about high blood pressure, visit www.heart.org. For more information about services available at Parkland, visit www.parklandhospital.com