At one time, high blood pressure was ignored in older adults because it was thought to be a normal part of aging. No more.
Blood pressure control is important as you age, even when only one of the blood pressure readings is in the hypertensive range. After age 55, it's not unusual for the diastolic pressure, the bottom reading, to stay the same or fall while the systolic pressure -- the top number, keeps climbing. The diastolic pressure is the force applied when your heart is at rest. The systolic pressure is the force applied to vessels when your heart muscle contracts.
For older adults, reducing systolic blood pressure is well worth the effort. The October issue of Mayo Clinic Health Letter lists potential benefits from lowering systolic hypertension. Studies have shown that the change may:
Reduce stroke risk by about 30 percent
Reduce heart attack risk by about 23 percent
Reduce risk of heart failure by about 55 percent
Reduce dementia risk by about half
Delay kidney failure or possibly prevent it
Prevent vision loss due to severe hypertension
Talk with your doctor about how to manage your blood pressure. The vast majority of older adults can reach healthier blood pressure levels with a combination of lifestyle changes and blood pressure-lowering drugs.