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August 30, 1996     The Message
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August 30, 1996

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August 30,1996 The Message --for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana I1 ii ii i ii ii i i ii ii] i High blood pressure controllable, not a normal part of aging By BARB FRAZE Catholic News Service High blood pressure, once thought to be a natural part of the aging process, is now ap- proached by the medical com- munity as something that can and should be controlled. "It's not just part of getting older," said Dr. Scott Massa, di- rector of the geriatrics assess- ment program at Good Samari- tan Hospital in Cincinnati. "It's a disease state, and if you treat it, you're reducing the chance of having a heart attack or stroke." "Nobody completely under- stands all the changes that take place" as people age, Massa said. "Many people, as they get older, their blood pressure will tend to go up." Sometimes, the muscle in the walls of blood vessels loses its elasticity, Massa said. He added that deposits of cholesterol or calcium deposits in the blood- vessel walls also can affect pres- sure, noting calcium deposits The Villages of Indiana, Inc. "We're About Chil&en and Familied" The Villages of Indiana is a not-for-profit organization whose purpose is to provide and support nurturing families and homes for abused, neglected and abandoned children. As a member of the Child Welfare League of America and a fully accredited organization by the National Council on Accreditation. The Villages is one of the largest child welfare organizations in the Midwest. 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A newsletter published by the Washington-based Center for Science in the Public Interest re- ports that while fewer than 5 percent of Americans, ages 18- 29, have high blood pressure, more than 80 percent of Ameri- cans over age 60 have high blood pressure. The biggest risk factor for strokes is high blood pressure, and it's one of the top three risks factors -- with smoking and high cholesterol -- for heart disease. Traditionally, in young peo- ple, blood pressure of up to 140 over 90 is considered acceptable, Dr. Massa said. The first number is the sys- tolic pressure, or the pressure on the blood-vessel walls when the heart beats. The lower num- ber is the diastolic pressure, or the pressure between heart beats. In the past, doctors would ex- pect to see a systolic pressure of 170-180 over a diastolic pres- sure of 90-100 for seniors. "That was considered OK, because a lot of people ran blood pressure h " like t at, Massa said. But in the late 1980s and early 1990s, medical studies of people over age 65 revealed a correlation between people with high blood pressure and those who had heart attacks and strokes, he said. As a result, doc- tors began trying to lower the Pressure Check Keeping blood pressure in check can reduce the chances for heart attack or stroke. In an effort to reduce high blood pressure, doctors will first look at a person's lifestyle and eating habits. CNS photo by Lisa Kessler acceptable rate of blood pressure in people over 65 to be more in line with acceptable pressure for younger people. In an effort to reduce blood pressure, doctors first will look at a person's lifestyle, including eating habits, salt intake and how sedentary a person is, said Massa. "Those might be things worth trying to modify," he said. The relationship between high blood pressure and alcoholic in- take has been the "subject of on- going debate," he said. Excessive ii Wade Funeral Home 119 S. Vine Street, Haubstadt, IN 768-5210 Call about pre-need counseling. Robert J. Wade Alan J. Wade i drinking  more than a couple of drinks a day -- seems to help pump up blood pressure, he said, adding, "it makes no difference the form of alcohol." In some people, being over- weight is related to high blood pressure, Massa said. Some- times the situation is compli- cated by other health problems, such as arthritis, which limits activity levels. People with such physical limitations might be able to do something like water aerobics to increase their activ- ity levels, he added. If blood pressure cannot be controlled with a change of lifestyle, doctors might prescribe medication, Massa said. Fortu- nately, he added, there are more than 30 choices of blood pres- . sure medicine available so that doctors can find the medication that best suits a patient. 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