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Staying Healthy as you Age in Place
By Hannah Roni Troutman
Posted on 4/27/2021 4:15 PM

Recently, Penn’s Village members learned from Dr. Jay Pomerantz’s Aging as a Treatable Disease series that activity and getting a good night’s sleep are all part of a healthy lifestyle as we age. Also important are knowing and monitoring blood pressure. Keeping blood pressure under control is possibly one of the most important self-care activities that we can undertake when we remain in our own homes as we age. To help us understand just what blood pressure is all about, we invited Dr. Hannah Troutman, a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Division of Nephrology at Jefferson Health, to join our conversation on healthy aging. This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

What is blood pressure? Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels. To live and function properly, tissues and organs need the oxygenated blood carried by blood vessels throughout the body. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood to the entire body through a network of blood vessels that includes arteries, veins, and capillaries. High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is when this pressure is too high.

What do top and bottom numbers mean? Systolic blood pressure is the top number. It indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls during heartbeats. Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number. It indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.

What is the correct way to measure blood pressure on a home monitor? (see above graphic)

• No food or drink for thirty minutes

• Empty your bladder

• No talking

• Arm resting at chest height

• Cuff against bare skin

• Back is supported

• Sit with feet flat on floor

What can affect blood pressure readings in the doctor’s office? There are several situations that may contribute to an elevated reading:

• Stress/anxiety

• Rushing to get to appointment

• Layers of clothing in the way

• Recent intake of caffeine or smoking just prior to office visit

• Lack of proper procedure by office staff

• Not one’s usual environment

• Using a stethoscope when using a manual cuff

Why do the numbers sometimes differ between home and doctor’s office?
Stress can result in higher numbers in the doctor’s office. Also, if you take your blood pressure at home, take your monitor with you to the doctor’s office to compare readings. This will establish that your monitor is properly calibrated.

The May issue of our monthly newsletter, The Village View, will discuss the possible effects on the body of high blood pressure and some of the lifestyle changes that may help keep your pressure at an acceptable level.

This article was originally published in the April 2021 issue of The Village View, the Penn’s Villlage monthly newsletter, in Active Aging. To read Part 2 on Understanding Blood Pressure and other Active Aging articles in past issues, visit our Newsletter Archive.

You may also view past programs that have been recorded under the EVENTS tab on the Menu bar, including Dr. Pomerantz’s series on Aging As a Treatable Disease.
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