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The Best Diet Choices for Elderly People with High Blood Pressure

Article by Daniel Westhead Daniel Westhead Sure Safe Alarms

High blood pressure affects around one in three adults across the UK and is a leading cause of major illnesses.

While high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can affect people of all ages, it is particularly prevalent in the elderly, with the number of people suffering with high blood pressure jumping to one in two in the over 65’s.

Sadly, having hypertension can lead to a number of conditions including heart disease, vascular dementia and stroke. Therefore, it’s vital that it’s managed properly.

While there are medications that can help to lower your blood pressure, one of the best ways to bring down your reading is to adopt a healthy lifestyle and diet.

We explore some of the best foods and diet choices for anyone suffering with high blood pressure.

Why diet affects your blood pressure as an elderly person

Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more food you eat, the more blood your heart must pump. The higher the fat content of your meal, the greater the resistance to blood flow in your arteries. This increases your blood pressure. Foods that are high in salt (sodium) can also increase blood pressure by causing your body to retain fluid.

When pressure is put on your arteries, it can damage their lining, making it harder for blood to be pumped around your body. This damage can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or other serious problems.

You can help lower your blood pressure by eating a healthy diet. This means eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It also means choosing leaner sources of protein, such as fish, chicken, and beans. And it means limiting salt, saturated fat, trans fat, and added sugars.

You can also help lower your blood pressure by being more active. Exercise helps your heart pump more efficiently and can help you lose weight. Even moderate exercise, such as walking for 30 minutes most days of the week, can help reduce blood pressure.

Foods to avoid when you have high blood pressure

While eating healthily can help to reduce your blood pressure, there are certain foods which can both increase your blood pressure immediately, but also contribute to longer term damage to your blood vessels.

Therefore, you should avoid, or at least limit your consumption of the following foods, especially if you are an elderly person:

  • sugary drinks
  • processed meats
  • refined carbs
  • fried foods
  • foods high in saturated and trans fats
  • foods high in sodium

While it may sound daunting to adapt your diet, there are often easy healthy swaps you can make without affecting what you eat too much. For example, choosing to grill food rather than fry it can make minimal difference to taste, but a dramatic difference to your heart.

It’s also wise to watch out for hidden salt and sugar in your foods. Even in everyday goods such as bread, there can be hidden additives, so keep a close eye on labels.

Why is salt so bad when you have high blood pressure?

Having excess salt in your diet affects the body in several ways and can be dangerous to several major organs.

Salt makes your body hold onto water, which in turn puts extra stress on your heart and blood vessels. One of the biggest causes of high blood pressure is a narrowing of the blood vessels – think of them as the pipes that circulate the blood around the body. In the short term, eating salt raises the amount of blood that is pumped through those “pipes” which is what high blood pressure is. So within a short period of eating excess salt, you can put strain on those vessels.

However, over the long term, eating too much sodium can also narrow those pipes, so it’s harder for the blood to be pumped around the body.

Eating a diet with too much salt can also strain your kidneys. Part of what they do is remove salt from the body, but when you have high blood pressure it interferes with their ability to do so. This makes the body hold onto water, and can lead to anything from fluid retention which leads to swelling around joints such as the ankles, through to creating a fluid build-up around the heart.

Does alcohol raise blood pressure?

Yes, and it does so in several ways. Much like salt, alcohol can cause the blood vessels to contract, making is more difficult for blood to travel through the body.

However, there are some further factors which also make drinking excessive alcohol more dangerous when you are already suffering from high blood pressure.

Alcohol also decreases baroreceptor sensitivity. Baroreceptors are types of receptors present in the body that help to regulate your blood pressure.

Two types of baroceptors exist - high pressure baroreceptors and low pressure receptors. Both of these activate when the blood vessels are stretched.

When your blood pressure drops, the receptors help minimize how much the blood vessels stretch to increase blood pressure. Similarly, when blood pressure increases, these receptors increase the stretching of the blood vessel walls in order to decrease blood pressure.

Alcohol prevents the body’s baroreceptors from detecting a need to stretch the blood vessels and increase their diameter, meaning that they don’t adapt to the amount of blood flowing through.

Drinking alcohol also affects your cortisol levels, which can affect your blood pressure too.

Best foods to eat if you have high blood pressure

If you already have high blood pressure, eating a healthy diet can help lower your blood pressure by about 11 mmHg. That's a big difference when it comes to protecting your heart and health.

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Lean protein sources
  • Fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon and mackerel.

Consuming foods rich is omega-3 fatty acids are a particularly terrific way to protect your heart, as it can reduce inflammation within your body which damages blood vessels. If you’re not a fan of fish, it can be worth considering taking an omega-3 supplement.

Can high blood pressure make you feel dizzy?

In itself, high blood pressure is unlikely to cause dizziness, however what can happen is that a change in blood pressure can cause you to feel lightheaded.

If you move from a state of having high blood pressure to low blood pressure, this can bring on feelings of dizziness and feeling unsteady on your feet. A sudden drop can even result in passing out.

If you suffer with changes in blood pressure, knowing that someone is on hand should you fall offers both you and those who care for you reassurance.

SureSafe offer a range of devices that can detect falls and summon help should you need it. Our alarms which are fitted with fall detection don’t need you to press the panic button in order to summon help, as they do so automatically.

You can choose to have your alarm monitored by your friends and family – so that they are alerted should you fall, or by our 24/7 response centre who will get you the help you need.

If you are looking to adopt a more healthy lifestyle, the SureSafeGo Plus also offers a step and activity counter- perfect for those who want to get a little more active.

One of the biggest things to remember is that, by changing your diet and adopting more healthy habits, you can make a significant positive difference to your blood pressure in a relatively short space of time, so it’s never too late to look at your diet and make changes for the better.

Call SureSafe's team of experts 0800 112 3201 to learn more about how you can help keep your elderly loved ones safe with a personal alarm.

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