Blood pressure creeping up? How to bring it down without drugs

Lifestyle changes may reduce your need for pills.

For most of us, as the years increase, so does our blood pressure. By age 60, almost 65% of Americans will have high blood pressure. Although men are more likely to develop high blood pressure between ages 45 and 55, women are at greater risk after 65. Yet high blood pressure isn't an inevitable fact of later life. It's possible to slow the processes that drive blood pressure up. By doing so, you'll also reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke, and dementia.

Blood pressure reflects the amount of blood flowing through the vessels and the pressure exerted by the vessel walls against the blood. In a blood pressure reading, the top number represents the systolic pressure, recorded when the vessel contracts to push blood through. The bottom number represents the diastolic pressure, recorded when the vessels are relaxed. Over time, our blood vessels lose elasticity, and atherosclerotic plaque may build up in artery walls. Both of these trends make vessels stiffer. As vessels become less flexible, blood pressure is higher at any level of blood flow.

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