Blood pressure almost always increases with age as your artery walls become less elastic. This is true of your systolic blood pressure (upper figure) although your diastolic blood pressure (lower figure) tends to increase until around the age of 55 to 60, and may then start to fall slightly.
How blood pressure increases with age
The age-related rise in blood pressure is seen in both men and women. If you reach the age of 55 years and do not yet have high blood pressure, you still have a 90% risk of developing hypertension during your lifetime.
Average blood pressure age chart from Chobanian et al 2003.
As you can see from the graphs above, the average blood pressure at age 50 is around 135/85 mmHg, at 60, normal blood pressure is around 140/78 mmHg and average blood pressure around the age of 70 is 145/75 mmHg. These figures are from the general US population and will include people who are already taking antihypertensive medication.
Why blood pressure increases with age
The age-related increase in blood pressure is partly related to your genes and partly to diet and lifestyle. Salt intake is a major factor. The Yanomami Indians of Brazil, for example, whose traditional diet provides less than 1g salt per day, have an average blood pressure of just 96/60 mmHg and only develop hypertension if they start to follow a western, salt-laden diet.Taking steps to cut back on salt, maintain a healthy weight, exercise on most days and not smoking will help to slow the age-related rise in blood pressure and, in some people, may prevent it. To find out more about how salt affects your blood pressure, see Why You Should Eat Less Salt.
If you have a borderline raised blood pressure, or are on antihypertension treatment, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure regularly as hypertension is largely a silent disease. By the time you develop symptoms, some damage to your circulation has already occurred.
If your blood pressure is raised, self-monitoring is key to maintaining good control.
Doctors recently advised that good control of blood pressure in the over 75s is especially important to help avoid heart attacks and stroke.
Click here for advice on choosing a blood pressure monitor to use at home.
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