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Blood Pressure Measurement in the Elderly

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.

This is one reason why blood pressure measurement can be important for older people. When their blood pressure is consistently high, seniors are more at risk for many serious medical conditions including heart attacks, strokes and vascular dementia. Blood pressure can provide a key signal ahead of time that risks of these conditions are high – allowing older people and their doctors to take action toward better health.

Since an older person with high blood pressure may feel no symptoms, a blood pressure monitor is needed to help older individuals know the status of this key health indicator. Elderly people can even purchase blood pressure monitors to use at home, allowing them to track whether their blood pressure is in a healthy range for their age on a day-to-day and long-term basis.

But what exactly is blood pressure, and why is it so important for the elderly? In this blog, we’ll discuss how to take blood pressure, what the reading means and even the best time to take blood pressure.

What is blood pressure?

You have two types of blood vessels in your body: veins, which transport blood from the rest of the body to the heart, and arteries, which transport blood from the heart to the rest of the body.

Blood pressure measures how strongly your blood is pressing against the walls of your arteries. By doing this, it measures how hard your heart has to pump to get the blood out to the rest of your body. Consistently high blood pressure means your heart is pumping really forcefully all the time.

As you can imagine, it’s not good for the heart to be working so hard. That’s why hypertension, or consistently high blood pressure, is something that elderly people should avoid.

There are many factors that can be involved in producing high blood pressure in older people. To learn more, see our blog about causes of high blood pressure, or our blog about diet choices for older people with hypertension.

Blood pressure: two important numbers

If you’ve seen your blood pressure written down before, you’ll see that it’s usually written as two numbers with a slash in between them, such as 100/70mmHg.

The first number of these two is the systolic pressure. It measures the force in your arteries during a heartbeat.

The second number, the diastolic pressure, measures the pressure between heartbeats.

Both numbers are important in blood pressure measurement for the elderly.

Understanding blood pressure readings

It’s important to note that one blood pressure reading on one day most likely won’t give the whole picture of an older person’s blood pressure health.

Blood pressure naturally changes during the day. It’s typically lower when a person is sleeping and higher when they’re doing exercise or physical work. It can also fluctuate according to a range of factors, including stress levels. For this reason, doctors know that blood pressure will be higher when it’s measured at a GP’s office – because patients are usually anxious about going to the doctor.

This natural variation in blood pressure means that the best time to take blood pressure at home is in both the morning and the evening – typically quieter times. The NHS says that doing this for a week can give you an overall sense of your blood pressure.

What is a healthy range for an older person’s blood pressure?

The NHS actually gives different healthy blood pressure measurement ranges for elderly people.

For those aged 80 or under, high blood pressure is typically considered to be 135/85mmHg or over for home readings and 140/90mmHg or over at a clinic. However, for the under-80s, just being below the threshold for high blood pressure isn’t the goal. The NHS says that for this group, readings between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg are ideal.

For those over 80, high blood pressure is considered to be 145/85mmHg or over for home readings and 150/90mmHg or over at a clinic. According to the NHS, the lower “ideal” range for the younger group doesn’t apply here. A reading below the threshold for high blood pressure is the goal for the over-80s age group.

All this being said, everyone’s body is different, so it’s best to check with your doctor if you’re unsure about the ideal blood pressure range for you.

How to take blood pressure

As we’ve mentioned, NHS recommends that someone taking their blood pressure at home should do this in both the morning and evening. Each time, you should take two readings with a minute or more in between. And remember that the best time to take blood pressure is when you’re not especially stressed and haven’t just been moving about actively.

It’s ideal to take your blood pressure at a kitchen table, dining table or desk. You’ll sit upright in your chair and rest your straightened arm over the table.

Your blood pressure monitor should include instructions explaining how to take blood pressure using it, but generally the steps are as described below.

You’ll put the blood pressure cuff around your upper arm, making sure it’s snug but you can still fit two fingers underneath it.

Next, you’ll start your blood pressure monitor. The cuff will inflate and deflate a few times, which can be uncomfortable but shouldn’t really hurt. Don’t clench your fist and just let your arm remain relaxed.

Once the cuff deflates and your monitor signals that it’s finished, make a note of your reading.

How SureSafe can be part of a plan to manage an older person’s health at home

Devices like blood pressure monitors can be great in helping older people to monitor their well-being and take care of themselves in their own homes.

Another great step to help seniors stay independent, especially those who are worried about heart attacks or other health crises, is a personal alarm.

SureSafe’s talking pendant alarms mean that an older person who lives alone can always call for help with just the touch of a button. And, crucially, the speaker in the pendant means that the wearer can speak to our 24/7 response centre or their friends and family through the pendant itself, ensuring that the help provided fits what the older person actually needs.

Alternatively, our wrist alarms can provide great peace of mind and have the same ability to call for help right away, while looking just like a Fitbit or smartwatch.

If you’d like to learn more about how SureSafe’s personal alarms can help older people with hypertension or other long-term health conditions, give our experts a ring at 0800 112 3201. You can also live chat with us or request a call back.

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