How can the elderly better manage blood pressure in winter?
Come winter and there is usually a spike in visits to the doctor especially by the elderly for treatment of hypertension. Medical studies have shown a strong correlation between a fall in temperature and increase in blood pressure. This may mean that even borderline hypertensive patients could require medication or other hypertension control measures during winter. And especially in the elderly, seasonal variation should not be disregarded, as they are prone to increase in blood pressure during winter because the low temperatures make the vessels shrink.
A study, ‘Seasonal variation of blood pressure and its relationship to ambient temperature in an elderly population’ conducted by P R Woodhouse, K T Khaw, M Plummer found that seasonal variation of blood pressure is heightened in older adults and may partly explain the greater cardiovascular disease mortality of elderly subjects during the winter.
There are however a number of steps the elderly can take to ensure that they are better protected to manage during cold weather.
Measure your blood pressure & Consult your physician:
Get your blood pressure checked regularly and discuss any new symptoms or spikes with your physician. In case a hypertension medication routine needs to be started, your physician may refer you to a cardiologist for establishing the right combination medicine protocol for your needs. It’s also a good idea to invest in a high quality blood pressure machine to regularly measure at home. Ask your physician how often you should be measuring your blood pressure.
Not being dressed properly for the cold weather is usually the biggest culprit resulting in blood pressure spikes in the elderly during winter. It’s essential to be warmly clad during the cold winter months especially during the mornings. For the elderly it’s advisable to be clothed in additional layers and wear socks, scarf, woolen cap and gloves when possible to conserve body heat.
Try to maintain a normal temperature inside the house with the use of radiators or other heating devices.
Diet & Exercise:
Cut down on your salts especially if you are a hypertensive patient. Studies have found that even a small reduction in sodium in the diet can result in a decrease in blood pressure levels. The Mayo Clinic recommends limiting sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. A lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is ideal for most adults.
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products and skimps on saturated fat and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure, finds the Mayo Clinic. This eating plan is known as the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
It is also best to avoid alcohol and caffeine during cold weather as they cause the body to lose heat more rapidly.
The elderly should also try to minimize outdoor activity and avoid extreme exertion. If you are going out for a walk, try to do so a little later in the day when the sun is out and it’s a bit warmer.
Chronic stress is also a culprit for blood pressure, especially in the elderly. This has been particularly difficult to manage during the recent lockdown months. Try to become conscious of what’s causing the stress and discuss with a family member or friend.
Developing hobbies such as gardening or yoga can also contribute positively to manage stress. It is very important to take a little bit of time out every day to participate in an activity you enjoy. For the elderly this could mean a game of cards, a video call with a friend, watching an old movie.
These are simple tips but will go a long way to help you in managing cold weather better.
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At Seva At Home, we produce a wealth of free health information to help elders live healthier, happier lives. This has been produced by independent research carried out by the Seva At Home team. This information is not a replacement for medical advice. Please consult your physician for relevant medical diagnosis and advice.