High blood pressure is a common issue among seniors. As our bodies age, our vascular system (the network of blood vessels) becomes stiffer, causing elevated blood pressure. For people with bad health habits, plaque buildup in the arteries can also increase the risks associated with hypertension.
High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart disease, and other health problems. Since it does not cause visible symptoms and often goes untreated, it is often called the "silent killer."
That's why it's essential to know the guidelines for the new normal blood pressure for seniors. Understanding these guidelines can help prevent the nasty surprise of hypertension, extending a person's life.
Understanding Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries.
Each time your heart beats, it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. Between heartbeats, when your heart relaxes, your blood pressure drops. This is called diastolic pressure.
Your blood pressure reading uses these two numbers. Usually, the systolic number is written above or before the diastolic number, such as 120/80 mm Hg (mm Hg means millimeters of mercury).
High blood pressure indicates an underlying medical condition and can cause problems like heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
What The New Guidelines Say
When we age, our arteries naturally harden, making it more difficult for our heart to pump blood. This condition puts seniors at higher risk for high blood pressure. In 2017, the American Heart Association and several health organizations lowered the numbers used to detect hypertension (high blood pressure).
In the past, the blood pressure guidelines for seniors set the threshold for hypertension at 150/80 mm Hg. Now, new blood pressure guidelines consider a blood pressure of 130/80 mm Hg as hypertension stage 1. The new guidelines imply that seniors who were once considered borderline hypertensive are now certified hypertensive.
The new blood pressure guidelines for seniors met a lot of criticism from the medical community. In 2013, experts released guidelines that increased the normal blood pressure for seniors. However, these guidelines were refuted by the 2015 SPRINT results, which showed that we need a lower blood pressure threshold to be considered hypertensive.
According to Dr. Paul Conlin, an endocrinologist at the VA Boston Healthcare System, "Blood pressure guidelines are not updated at regular intervals. Instead, they are changed when sufficient new evidence suggests the old ones weren't accurate or relevant anymore."
This is the case with the lowered thresholds set forth by the 2015 SPRINT results. Based on extensive research involving 9,000 adults, there’s a need to reduce hypertension thresholds so medical intervention can be carried out before it’s too late.
"The goal now with the new guidelines is to help people address high blood pressure — and the problems that may accompany it like heart attack and stroke — much earlier," says Dr. Conlin.
With the new blood pressure guidelines for seniors, they can start taking better care of their health before their blood pressure elevates further and additional complications happen.
The Impact Of New Normal Blood Pressure For Seniors
The new blood pressure guidelines for seniors would affect you if you were already on the borderline of having hypertension based on the old guidelines. Since the new guidelines lowered the threshold, you would be hypertensive by now.
This means you’d need to contact your medical provider for further tests, and you might be eligible for hypertensive medications. If you were already hypertensive based on the old guidelines, the new guidelines don’t affect you.
The new guidelines also recommend starting to monitor your blood pressure by doing some tests at home using a blood pressure monitor. Most insurance providers will help you pay for one, although you can get these monitors for under a hundred dollars.
If you notice any drastic changes in your blood pressure, immediately contact your doctor for further advice.
Aside from consistently monitoring blood pressure, the new guidelines don’t recommend seniors to do anything else. Preventing hypertension is still the most basic instruction, and seniors can do this by eating a healthy diet, maintaining their ideal weight, and taking medications as needed.
Responding To The New Blood Pressure Guidelines
Even if you maintain a healthy lifestyle, high blood pressure remains a threat with aging. Gender, family history, and race also increase a person’s risk of hypertension. Monitoring your blood pressure helps spot changes quickly before they escalate and cause further damage.
How To Check Your Blood Pressure
Monitoring your blood pressure is simple. There are plenty of blood pressure monitors available that allow you to measure your blood pressure on your own. Some blood pressure monitors can even connect to a smartphone so you can transfer the data and automatically track it. This feature comes in handy when you visit your doctor and report the trend of your blood pressure.
When purchasing a blood pressure monitor, take note of the following factors:
- It must fit snugly around your upper arm. There are wrist and finger monitors, but these can be inaccurate
- It must have an automated monitor with the cuff inflating itself
- It must have a big enough screen so you can easily read your results
- Optional: Look for a monitor that seamlessly transfers data to your smartphone. This allows for automatic tracking so you can see your progress
When using a blood pressure monitor, remember the following tips:
- Don’t drink caffeinated or alcoholic drinks 30 minutes before taking a reading
- Relax and sit quietly for five minutes. Put your feet evenly on the ground, keep your legs uncrossed, and support your back
- Support your elbow and make sure it’s at heart level. It is best if you can put your arms on a table
- Wrap the cuff on bare skin since clothing can impede the measurement
- Don’t talk while the measurement is ongoing
- After the first reading, take another reading after one minute. Leave the deflated cuff and trigger the monitor after you’ve rested for a minute. If the readings are close, average them but if they’re far apart, take the third reading
- Keep a daily log of your blood pressure and note the time of day when you took the measurement
Frequently Asked Questions
Below are the frequently asked questions about the new blood pressure guidelines:
What are the new blood pressure guidelines for seniors (2022)?
The blood pressure chart for seniors this 2022 has been updated based on the 2017 new blood pressure guidelines. Previously, 150/80 mm Hg was considered hypertensive for adults aged 65 and older, while younger people had high blood pressure at 140/90 mm Hg.
The new guidelines state that adults become hypertensive starting at 130/80 mm Hg. The new normal blood pressure for seniors is still at 120/80 mm Hg. However, anything higher than this is considered hypertensive.
The new guidelines also imply that borderline hypertensive individuals are now hypertensive based on the old guidelines.
What is a normal systolic and diastolic blood pressure?
According to an elderly blood pressure chart, the normal blood pressure for seniors is systolic if less than or equal to 120 mm Hg and diastolic if less than or equal to 80 mm Hg. A systolic between 120 and 129 mm Hg is already considered elevated even if the diastolic is still below 80 mm Hg.
Blood pressure between 130/80 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg is considered Stage 1 Hypertensive, while a reading of 140/90 mm Hg and higher is Stage 2 Hypertensive. If you have blood pressure higher than 180/120 mm Hg, you should see your doctor immediately.
Healthy blood pressure within the normal range is vital for a long and healthy life. While blood pressure naturally spikes as we age, seniors can protect themselves and mitigate the risks associated with hypertension by following best practices.
Being updated with the new normal blood pressure for seniors is the first step towards understanding if one is at risk. With this knowledge, caregivers and seniors can start taking measures like constant blood pressure monitoring to prevent high blood pressure. It would also be helpful to keep a copy of an elderly blood pressure chart in a conspicuous place so seniors and their carers can know if hypertension is looming on the horizon.
Prevention will always be better than cure, and vigilant monitoring goes a long way when it comes to blood pressure. It can prevent hypertension and the ailments associated with it.
Learn how to live a healthy life as a senior by managing the new normal blood pressure through lifestyle changes. Check out the Senior Strong blog section for more helpful articles.
Elizabeth Kogut works as the editorial head of Senior Strong. Armed with her degree in Nursing from the University of Missouri, Elizabeth ensures that all the site’s content is relevant to seniors today.