A regular part of ageing in place is taking a quick trip to the doctors. This is where your overall condition can be monitored closely, helping you get on top of any problems before they arise. 

You may have noticed that most times you visit the doctor for a check up, they will take a reading of your blood pressure. This is because both high and low blood pressure can affect your body in different ways, especially as you get older. 

So how does blood pressure affect you?

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the term given to the force at which blood pushes against the walls of your blood vessels. It is measured by listening to the sound your blood makes when pressure is put on your arm (that's the cuff that doctors inflate). Doctors will listen to both the sound it makes when the heart pumps, as well as between pumps. This is then described with two numbers, for example, 120 over 80 (or 120/80 for short).

Low blood pressure

Elderly people sometimes suffer from low blood pressure, particular when going from a sitting to a standing position. A sudden drop in blood pressure can reduce the amount of oxygen reaching the brain, giving you a dizzy, lightheaded feel. 

A number of factors can lead to low blood pressure in the elderly, including lying down for prolonged periods of time and prescription medication.

High blood pressure

On the other hand, high blood pressure is when your heart is pumping too much blood. Though immediate symptoms may not be obvious, high blood pressure can cause trouble over time, particularly for the elderly. This includes issues with the heart, as well as with the blood vessels themselves, such as a thickening of the lining.

Blood pressure can rise for a variety of reasons. It could be poor diet, lack of exercise, hereditary disease or, quite simply, just your age.

If you're worried about your blood pressure, ask your doctor to measure it the next time you're checked up.

FAQ: How does blood pressure affect the elderly?