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Lowering Blood Pressure with Exercise in the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

Blood pressure is an important measure of health in the elderly. That’s because high blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase risks of serious health conditions including strokes, heart failure and even vascular dementia – a type of dementia caused by problems with blood flow in the brain.

However, there’s good news. Exercise can help older people decrease their blood pressure in both the short and long term. It can even help some people avoid having to take blood pressure medication.

How does exercise help to lower blood pressure in the elderly? And does blood pressure increase with exercise if you’re working hard? We’ll dive into several aspects of lower blood pressure and exercise in this article, including just how much exercise seniors might need to aim for to see results.

What is blood pressure?

Let’s start by reviewing why blood pressure has such a significant effect on older people’s bodies.

Blood pressure is the measurement of how strongly your blood is pressing against the walls of your arteries, which are the blood vessels carrying blood away from your heart. When your blood pressure is high, it means that your heart is having to beat really hard to move your blood, which isn’t good for your heart or your body.

Blood pressure is measured in the rather odd units of mmHg. Typically, blood pressure readings include the systolic pressure, the pressure in your arteries during a heartbeat, and the diastolic pressure, which is the pressure in between heartbeats. As you’d expect, the first of these numbers should be higher.

Broadly speaking, the NHS gives 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg as the ideal range for blood pressure in under-80s, while people aged 80 and over should aim for blood pressure below 145/85mmHg when the reading is taken at home. However, blood pressure is expected to be higher in some contexts, such as at a doctor’s office. If you’re not sure what blood pressure numbers would be ideal for you, check with your doctor.

Why does exercise reduce blood pressure?

One reason why physical activity is great for reducing blood pressure in older people is that it works in numerous ways.

Firstly, exercise strengthens your heart and makes your body fitter, meaning that it’s more efficient at getting oxygen from your blood. All that adds up to less strenuous work for your heart.

Secondly, exercise and a healthy diet can help seniors to lose weight, if that’s one of their health goals. Being overweight can raise blood pressure, while being at a healthy weight can ensure your heart doesn’t have to work so hard.

Thirdly, physical activity can make you stronger. When your muscles are more powerful, your heart has to work less hard to move you around.

Fourth, exercise is known to help reduce stress. When you’re calmer, your blood pressure drops.

And lastly, many people experience lower blood pressure after exercise right away – so you can feel the blood-pressure-lowering effects immediately as well as in the longer term.

As you can see, many factors related to heart health in the elderly are interrelated. Diet, activity and weight are all intertwined, so improving your wellbeing in all of these areas should benefit blood pressure.

What kind of exercise is good for lowering blood pressure?

If you’re an older person thinking about lowering blood pressure and exercise, it’s best to consult your GP first to make sure your plan is safe for you.

However, in general, the NHS’s activity guide for older adults says that people over 65 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity a week. If you exercise every day, that breaks down to just a little over 20 minutes each day. One type of moderate intensity exercise that’s accessible for many older people is just brisk walking.

The NHS also recommends that older adults do exercises focusing on strength, flexibility and balance on at least two days each week. That’s a smart move because lack of balance and strength in the elderly can result in falls, which can be dangerous.

In the summer of 2023, a study investigating different types of exercise and their effects on blood pressure was published. It found lower blood pressure after exercise habit changes of just two weeks!

All the types of exercise examined in the study reduced blood pressure from between around 4 to 8mm/Hg. Although that doesn’t sound like an immense change, it can still make a big difference. According to an NHS blog post, a reduction of just 10mm/Hg in blood pressure can result in:

  • 17% lower risk of heart disease,
  • 27% lower risk of stroke, and
  • 28% lower risk of heart failure.

In other words, exercise is more than worth it!

But wait – does blood pressure increase with exercise?

Yes, blood pressure will usually increase during the time when you’re exercising. That’s because your body is working harder, so it needs more oxygen. However, the right kind of activity should lower blood pressure after exercise in the long run.

Increased blood pressure with exercise is one reason why you should check with your GP before you start an exercise plan. That way, you can ensure you’re not choosing an activity that will increase your blood pressure too much while you do it.

What else can I do to help protect my health if I have high blood pressure?

We’ve already mentioned the importance of diet and weight in addition to lowering blood pressure and exercise, but there are other steps that older people can take to reduce their blood pressure.

Quitting smoking is a crucial step for every kind of wellbeing. Limiting alcohol consumption is also important, particularly because alcohol can contribute to higher weights. And drinking lots of caffeinated drinks such as coffee can also bump up blood pressure, so it’s best to consume coffee and tea in moderation and drink lots of water too.

Lastly, older people with high blood pressure should consider a personal alarm to provide peace of mind and keep them safe while they’re outdoors taking exercise.

If you’re an elderly person working on lowering your high blood pressure, you might feel concerned about your risks of heart attack and stroke. An alarm with automatic fall detection can ease these worries because it calls for help by itself whenever it detects a fall. That means that if an older person falls due to a heart attack or stroke and isn’t able to call for help, an alarm will be raised anyway, and help will be on the way.

A personal alarm with a GPS tracker can also keep older people feeling safe while they’re out and about taking exercise to lower their blood pressure. Some personal alarms only work inside the home, but these alarms allow the wearer to call for help anywhere. So, if an elderly person finds that they need to call for assistance while they’re out in the neighbourhood taking a walk to reduce blood pressure, all they need to do is press a button. The alarm sends a map of its location so that help will always know how to get to the person who needs it.

Staying safe while lowering blood pressure

A personal alarm from SureSafe is a great safety measure for older people with high blood pressure. It means they can have confidence to take exercise and go about their daily lives without worrying about how they’ll call for help if accidents happen outdoors or they experience a fall due to high blood pressure and heart problems.

How else can personal alarms help older people with high blood pressure? To talk more about our alarms’ many different functions and which might be right for you, call our team of experts at 0800 112 3201, get in touch through our live chat or request a call back.

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