More commonly known as high blood pressure, around 30% of older adults have hypertension. Although high blood pressure does not tend to have any symptoms, if left untreated it can lead to heart disease, stroke and damage to the kidneys. However, blood pressure is routinely checked at appointments, which allows abnormally high readings to be picked up and treated.
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High blood pressure is thought to be more common in older adults because as we age the walls of the blood vessels become less elastic, so blood is pumped around the body under higher pressure. However, a number of other factors are thought to increase our risk of developing high blood pressure. Although we can’t change our genes, other risk factors can be modified to have a favourable impact on blood pressure. Not smoking, losing weight if overweight, drinking alcohol in moderation, limiting salt in the diet and taking regular exercise can all help to reduce blood pressure; avoiding stress and cutting down on caffeine if your intake is high can also help. About 10% of cases of high blood pressure are thought to be the result of another disease such as diabetes or kidney disease.
When blood pressure is only slightly raised, lifestyle changes alone can bring it back within desirable limits. However, if this is not enough by itself or blood pressure is higher, a range of different medications are available to lower blood pressure. It is common to require a combination of these medications to adequately control blood pressure.