High blood pressure is very common in older people. As we age, our vascular system changes. Arteries get stiffer, so blood pressure goes up, the NIA notes. This is true even for people who have heart-healthy habits. The good news is that blood pressure can be controlled in most people. Here are ways you can help your father, according to the NIA:
Encourage your dad to eat a healthy diet and keep a healthy weight. Being overweight adds to the risk of high blood pressure. Recommend that your father ask his doctor if he needs to lose weight. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products may help to lower blood pressure. As we get older, the body and blood pressure become more sensitive to salt (sodium), so your father may need to watch how much salt is in his diet. Most of the salt comes from processed foods (for example, soup and baked goods). A low-salt diet, such as the DASH diet , might help lower blood pressure. Remind your father to watch his alcohol intake as well. Men should not have more than two drinks a day and women no more than one a day to lower their risk of high blood pressure.
Encourage dad to exercise, or at least keep moving if he can, every day. Moderate exercise can lower the risk of high blood pressure. Be sure dad checks with his doctor before starting an exercise plan.
Remind your father of the importance of a good night’s sleep. Let dad’s doctor know if your father snores or sounds like he stops breathing for moments when he sleeps. This may be a sign of a problem called sleep apnea. Treating sleep apnea and getting a good night’s sleep can help to lower blood pressure.
Manage stress. Relaxing and coping with problems could help lower high blood pressure.
Report all medications and supplements to the doctor. Be sure your dad tells his doctor about all the drugs he takes. Don’t forget to mention over-the-counter drugs, vitamins and dietary supplements. They may affect blood pressure. They also can change how well blood pressure medicine works.
Monitor blood pressure closely. If the doctor asks your father to take his blood pressure at home, keep in mind: There are many home blood pressure monitors for sale. Ask his doctor, nurse, or pharmacist which monitor you need and how to use it. Have his monitor checked at the doctor’s office to make sure it works correctly.
Keep a list of your dad’s blood pressure numbers. This list should include what time he measured his blood pressure, and when he took his blood pressure medication (if he takes it). Share this information with his doctor, physician’s assistant or nurse.
Lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure to a safe level, but many times people will need to be on medication as they grow older. Medicine can control blood pressure, but it can’t cure it, the NIA notes. Those on blood pressure medication likely will need to take that medicine for the rest of their lives. But being proactive can go a long way toward helping your dad.
If your father needs help maintaining healthy habits at home, consider a caregiver. A caregiver can assist your dad in preparing healthy meals, remind him to take his meds on schedule, and help him stay active.
For more information about blood pressure, visit the National Institute on Aging website.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Julie Ann Soukoulis is the owner of Home Instead Senior care office in Rohnert Park, mother of two and passionate about healthy living at all ages. Having cared for her own two parents, she understands your struggles and aims, through her website, www.homeinstead.com/sonoma to educate and encourage seniors & caregivers. Have a caregiving or aging concern? She loves to hear from you at 586-1516 anytime.