The American Heart Association (AHA) redefined blood pressure guidelines in 2017; this was the first update in 14 years. Today, the AHA reports that a reading of 130-80 mmHg or higher should receive a diagnosis of high blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure affects nearly half of adults in the U.S.
Often called the ‘silent killer’, high blood pressure can present with no noticeable symptoms. You may not even realize you have high blood pressure until you experience a serious problem with your kidneys, brain or heart. Luckily, making the right lifestyle choices can help to lower blood pressure. But, are there seasonal risks that are out of your control? Can heat cause your blood pressure to rise?
How Does Temperature Affect Blood Pressure?
It can be tempting to spend many hours outdoors when the temperatures rise and the sun comes out. However, exposure to excessive heat can be dangerous for many seniors, especially those with certain medical issues or who are taking certain medications. But can heat cause your blood pressure to rise?
Actually, cold weather is more likely to raise your blood pressure than warm weather. This is because cold temperatures constrict your arteries, which means you need more blood pressure to get your blood flowing. People tend to have lower resting blood pressure readings in the summer and higher numbers in the winter. However, seniors with hypertension are not out of the woods in the summer months. If you take medication for high blood pressure, you could be at risk for sun sensitivity. And, for seniors over the age of 65, there are other increased risks from the summer heat:
- Seniors are often less able to adjust to sudden temperature changes.
- Hot temperatures cause an increase in blood flow to the skin, which can lower blood pressure and cause dizziness, falls, dehydration and fainting.
- It is more likely that older adults have chronic conditions and take medications that can affect the body’s ability to control temperature.
How to Control High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, there are lifestyle changes you can make to positively impact your blood pressure numbers any time of year.
Maintain a healthy weight.
It is common for blood pressure to increase as your weight increases. Even just losing a small amount of weight can have a positive effect on blood pressure. In the summer, is best to rely on a diet heavy in berries and fruits and to drink plenty of water. Seniors in senior living communities, like Lamar Court Assisted Living Community in Overland Park, Ks., have the benefit of on-site chefs who are trained to focus on both taste and nutrition.
Engaging in physical activity for at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week can reduce your numbers if you have high blood pressure. Regular exercise is also a great way to maintain your overall health and reduce your risk of developing hypertension. Lamar Court has a wide variety of amenities available to keep you active, ranging from swimming to walking paths and yoga to personalized fitness programs. At other senior living communities, like Wesley Court Assisted Living Community, residents enjoy fitness and yoga programs, Wii bowling challenges and health education sessions to help residents make the best choices to improve their health.
Limit alcohol and caffeine.
Some studies indicate that drinking alcohol in moderation can actually help to improve your blood pressure. However, drinking alcohol in excess (more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men) can increase your risk for hypertension and reduce the effectiveness of blood pressure medications. Caffeine can cause a spike in blood pressure if you rarely consume it. For regular coffee drinkers, caffeine is unlikely to have much impact.
Eat a low-sodium diet.
Another great way to control high blood pressure any time is to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet. Sodium reduction can lower your blood pressure up to 6 mm Hg for those with hypertension. Staff at assisted living communities like Rose Estates are able to create specific menus for residents with low-sodium needs to help support their health goals. If you are working to reduce sodium in your diet on your own, here are a few tips:
- Eat fewer processed foods
- Do not add salt to meals
- Start with small changes
- Read food labels and make smart choices
Your blood pressure rises for several minutes after each cigarette you smoke. Quitting smoking can improve your overall health, including reducing your blood pressure, eliminating spikes in your blood pressure and reducing your risk of heart disease.
Chronic stress is a contributor to high blood pressure. Take some time to identify what is causing you stress and to find healthy ways to react when stressful events occur. Many senior communities, including Rose Estates, have a variety of choices for activities to help reduce stress including yoga, water aerobics and visits to the beauty salon.
Finding Safety and Support
Tutera Senior Living & Health Care is committed to creating a safe, supportive environment to help you create a life you love. From social opportunities to fitness programs and health and hospitality services, we want to create a personalized experience around your needs.