While it’s true that the rate of essential high blood pressure (the type that, by the usual
definition, has no identifiable cause) increases as we get older, this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case.
Unfortunately, the belief is so entrenched that many doctors can’t let go of it. I know of eminent cardiologists who take blood pressure medication without question, fully believing that because they are older, they can’t do anything about it.
What kind of example does that set for patients? One of the key reasons that blood pressure can increase as we age is that we tend to put on some extra pounds in our later years, which causes the heart to work harder to deliver blood to the body.
By keeping that extra weight off, you can go a long way toward keeping your blood pressure in check. High blood pressure must be taken seriously. It is a primary cause of damage to the heart’s coronary arteries, causing deposits of blood fats such as cholesterol to form on them and narrow them. In addition, high blood pressure also weakens the heart over time and is a powerful risk factor for stroke.
Don’t get me wrong — many people do need medication to control high blood pressure. But that is by no means true for everyone, no matter what their age.
Like other drugs, high blood pressure medication is not a silver bullet; being on drugs
simply brings your risk down to what it would be in a person who does not have high blood pressure.
This is why you cannot afford to ignore your other heart disease risk factors. Smoking, high
cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity are all risk factors that you must address, even if you are on blood pressure medication.
More Posts by Chauncey Crandall, M.D.
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