By Lisa Beck, Assistant Director of Nursing, Paul’s Run
Feeling young at heart doesn’t always mean the heart is healthy. As we age, our bodies go through many changes and blood pressure is a prime example. The normal blood pressure for someone in their 20’s can be much different than a person in their older years. If not managed properly, high blood pressure can lead to life-threatening conditions, especially for seniors.
Your Primary Care Provider (PCP) uses various tools to measure your health status, one of the basic assessments measures blood pressure. Normally the heart continuously works to efficiently supply blood to all our body parts. However, as we age an older heart may not be able to pump as well and some arteries become thicker, stiffer and less flexible. This leads to an increase in blood pressure over our lifespan. The blood pressure is the amount of pressure the bloodstream pushes on your arteries, produced by the contraction of the heart muscle. The blood pressure has two numbers which provides important information – the top number which is the higher number of the two, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the muscle contracts). This number is called Systolic blood pressure. The Diastolic blood pressure, or the bottom number, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest between heartbeats. Generally, more consideration is given to the reading of the top number – the systolic blood pressure – which is an indicator of risk factors such cardiovascular disease, especially for people over the age of 50.
Your PCP will measure your blood pressure over time using a blood press cuff. Blood pressure can change from minute to minute and even changes in posture, exercise, stress, and sleep affect your blood pressure. A single high reading does not automatically mean you have “high” blood pressure (hypertension). However, consistent high blood pressure readings should be a concern and your physician will likely begin a treatment program.
As the Assistant Director of Nursing at Paul’s Run in Northeast Philadelphia, I am on the front lines ensuring residents keep an eye on their blood pressure. Many of our residents are managing high blood pressure that is the result of the normal physical changes of aging. All residents at Paul’s Run have the opportunity to have their blood pressure monitored. Residents in independent living at Paul’s Run have access to our Wellness Office as well as the medical office for blood pressure screening. The residents in the Skilled Nursing community rely on the medical team, including their doctor, nurse and rehab team, to ensure blood pressure is assessed and treated as necessary
Understanding your blood pressure and communication with your PCP is important. Often prescription medication is part of a treatment plan. Healthy lifestyle changes are key for a well-rounded treatment. So talk to your provider to develop a wellness plan just right for you, because “feeling young at heart” isn’t just a state of mind!