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Stress, Anxiety and Blood Pressure in the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

According to Public Health England, a quarter of people worldwide have high blood pressure. For adults over the age of 65 in England, that proportion rises to four out of ten.

Why does blood pressure in the elderly matter? Because high blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, vascular dementia and other serious conditions.

However, lifestyle changes and medication can help to reduce blood pressure. And a reduction in blood pressure lowers your risk of these conditions and helps older people to live a better life for longer.

In this article, we’ll talk about how stress and anxiety in the elderly can contribute to high blood pressure and how you can reduce anxiety, stress and blood pressure too.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure measures how strongly your blood presses against the walls of your arteries when your heart beats. Therefore, it’s also a measure of how hard your heart has to beat in order to move your blood. You want your heart to be able to move your blood around easily rather than having to work really hard, as seen in high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is measured in two numbers, one written before the other:

  • Systolic pressure is the first number, which is higher. It measures the pressure in your arteries during a heartbeat.
  • Diastolic pressure is the second, lower number. It measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.

According to the NHS, blood pressure for adults up to the age of 80 should be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. Blood pressure is expected to be about 5mmHg higher at a doctor’s office due to doctor-related anxiety. People over the age of 80 are also expected to have a higher blood pressure.

For people below the age of 80, high blood pressure is any reading above 135/85mmHg at home or 140/90mmHg at the doctor. For those aged 80 and above, these numbers are slightly higher – 145/85mmHg at home and 150/90mmGh at the doctor.

The good news is that a reduction of just 10mmHg in blood pressure has been shown to make a significant difference in health outcomes. So, if you’re an older person in the UK with high blood pressure, it’s worth taking steps to get your blood pressure closer to a healthy range.

What causes high blood pressure in the elderly?

There’s no single known cause for high blood pressure, but being over 65 is a known risk factor. Other risk factors include smoking, drinking alcohol, weight, not enough exercise and dietary factors such as eating too few plants like fruit and vegetables or consuming too much salt.

Stress and anxiety can also cause high blood pressure. This is because when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, your heart beats harder. This is your body’s preparation for what it thinks is an emergency where you’ll have to run or act fast.

Another way that stress and anxiety can worsen high blood pressure is by causing you to turn to smoking, drinking or unhealthy foods to help ease your feelings. Older people who are highly stressed and anxious might also feel they don’t have enough time or energy to exercise or cook a healthy meal.

How can elderly people combat stress, anxiety and blood pressure problems?

Staying active to calm high blood pressure and stress

Physical activities can be a great way to lower blood pressure and stress. While older people can sometimes feel that it’s difficult for them to take exercise due to physical mobility problems, muscle weakness, joint pain, or other medical factors, there are many approaches that can help older people to be active safely.

You should always check with your doctor before taking up physical activity, especially if you have chronic or serious health conditions. However, in general, the NHS recommends that people aged 65 and up should be moderately active for 150 minutes a week. That averages out to around 21 minutes a day – a very achievable amount of time!

For many older people, walking outdoors can be a great way to lower anxiety and blood pressure. Taking in the outdoors can be relaxing and soothing, and walking can help you to take a break from thoughts that are causing you anxiety. And if there are worries about falling outdoors while walking, a mobile personal alarm with GPS can help. While some personal alarms only work within the home, a mobile alarm with GPS works while you’re out and about, and it can even detect a fall automatically without any input from the wearer.

Exercise can also help to reduce stress and blood pressure because it helps your body to produce hormones like endorphins that make you feel good, while lowering your levels of stress hormones like cortisol. Some activities that are relaxing and safer for many older people include water aerobics, yoga for elderly people and tai chi – a gentle martial arts practice focused on stability and balance. You can even find seated yoga or seated tai chi exercises for older people who aren’t able to do standing exercises.

Deep breathing exercises for the elderly

Another step that can help reduce stress, anxiety and blood pressure anytime and anywhere is deep breathing. These are great for the elderly because they don’t require any equipment and can be done in a chair or bed.

Doing deep breathing is simple too. All you need to do is breathe in through your nose as deeply as you comfortably can. Breathe slowly – you can try counting from one to five to help you keep your breath slow. Then exhale through your mouth, counting from one to five again if you like.

Repeat your deep breathing for at least five minutes to feel the full calming benefits.

Visualisations and progressive muscular relaxation

There are a number of other mental relaxation techniques that can help to relieve stress and blood pressure. Again, these can be helpful for the elderly because they are easy to do and don’t require anything extra. The NHS offers audio recordings with instructions for relaxing visualisations and progressive muscular relaxation as well as mindful breathing techniques and more.

What is progressive muscular relaxation? It’s simply a procedure where you tighten each muscle group in the body for about 20 seconds, then release the tension. You can start at the top of your body with your forehead and work your way down the muscle groups of your body.

Make sure help is at hand if you need it

Sometimes older people who live alone can feel anxious about their own health and safety. What will they do in the event of a fall or if they need help and no-one’s around?

A one-touch personal alarm helps to relieve all these worries. It provides assurance that in the case of a fall or other emergency, help will be on the way, even if the phone is out of reach. And a personal alarm with a family and friends app can even help loved ones to coordinate care for an elderly person.

How SureSafe can help if you’re working on lowering blood pressure and stress

High blood pressure is common in the elderly – but that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. If stress and anxiety are contributing to your high blood pressure, there are simple steps you can take to help reduce it and lower your risk of negative health outcomes too.

If you’re an older person worried about the risk of falls while you’re out walking to relieve stress, then consider a wrist alarm. It’s as easy to wear as a watch, and a wrist alarm with GPS tracking and fall detection helps to keep you safe no matter where you are – even outside the home.

Looking for more information about how personal alarms can help reduce stress and anxiety? Try giving our personal alarm experts a call at 0800 112 3201, try our live chat or request a call back.

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