If a Michigan senior loved one’s physician has told them their blood pressure is creeping up, you are probably looking for natural ways to help them manage it. Taking proactive steps now might mean they are able to avoid taking medication for high blood pressure down the road.
Because lifestyle plays such an important role in controlling blood pressure, it is possible to avoid or reduce the need for medication by making some changes.
9 Ways to Control High Blood Pressure without Medication
- Weight Management: First on the list is getting to and maintaining a healthy weight. We all know it can be tough, especially for older adults who might not be as active. But what seniors and their family caregivers should know is that a weight loss of just 10 pounds can reduce your blood pressure.
- Commit to a Healthy Diet: The DASH eating plan is gaining in popularity with physicians trying to help patients manage their blood pressure naturally. DASH is an acronym for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It is a method of eating that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol. DASH puts the emphasis on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products. Research shows the DASH plan can lower your blood pressure by up to 14 mm Hg.
- Limit Alcohol Intake: People aren’t always aware the role alcohol consumption can play in driving up blood pressure. Drinking alcohol can increase blood pressure while also reducing the effectiveness of blood pressure medications. Limit your alcohol consumption to no more than one drink for women and men over the age of 65, and two drinks for men younger than 65.
- Avoid Caffeine: Drinking caffeinated beverages may cause an increase in blood pressure. But it’s not the case for everyone. To see if caffeine might be raising your senior loved one’s blood pressure, take their blood pressure before they consume something with caffeine in it. Wait 30 minutes and take it again. If their blood pressure increased by 5-10 points, they may be sensitive to caffeine. Limiting their intake may help control their blood pressure.
- Tobacco and Secondhand Smoke: We all know by now that smoking contributes to lung cancer and heart disease. What many people don’t realize is that smoking can raise your blood pressure by as much as 10 mm Hg for a full hour after you smoke. So smoking all day long might mean your blood pressure stays high throughout the day. Even breathing in secondhand smoke can contribute to high blood pressure.
- Exercise: Getting 30-60 minutes of physical exercise most days of the week can help to reduce your blood pressure. And the good news is your senior loved one will see results within a few weeks. Talk with your aging family member’s physician for recommendations and advice on beginning a new exercise program.
- Restrict Sodium: One sneaky contributor to high blood pressure can be foods with hidden sodium. Reading food labels to determine serving sizes and sodium will help. As will avoiding fast foods and processed foods. Your loved one’s physician can tell you how much salt and sodium they should be eating each day.
- Reduce Stress: Most of us know stress isn’t good for us. It can contribute to high blood pressure and cardiac disease. Learning how to better manage stress can help reduce blood pressure. Walking, swimming, yoga and meditation are all good stress busters.
Finally, one tool you might find helpful in exploring ways to manage an older loved one’s risk is the High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator. It takes many factors in to account ranging from gender to lifestyle to determine a person’s risk. Then it calculates how lifestyle changes can positively impact blood pressure.
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Many younger adults think arthritis is a chronic but not very serious condition older adults live with. The truth is it can be a debilitating disease for people of all ages. This degenerative disease is caused by abnormal wearing down of the cartilage that cushions joints in the body. The pain it inflicts on damaged joints can be quite severe.
While there are prescription medications that can help, the side effects of these drugs aren’t clear. It may make seniors reluctant to take them, especially on a longer term basis.
Newer research that is garnering more attention for its effectiveness at treating the symptoms of arthritis is the ancient Chinese exercise known as Tai chi. Because a Michigan winter can be tough for people with arthritis, we thought the older adults who read our blog would be interested in learning more.
What is Tai Chi?
Many people have heard of Tai chi or noticed people practicing it in a local park, but aren’t quite sure what it is. This ancient Chinese practice is a graceful form of exercise and stretching. It uses a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner. Deep breathing is an important element of Tai chi.
Each movement flows seamlessly in to the next one without pause. This keeps the body in constant motion. People new to this form of exercise are surprised at how much strength and stamina they can build from faithfully practicing it.
Tai Chi as a Treatment for Arthritis Pain and Symptoms
Because Tai chi is low impact, it puts little stress on muscles and joints. This is why it is considered to safe for people of all ages and fitness levels, including those who live with osteoarthritis.
Researchers at Tufts Medical Center in Boston looked at the role Tai Chi can play in treating the pain and symptoms of arthritis. Their study was made up of 40 adults age 55 and older who reported knee problems due to osteoarthritis. Participants were divided into two groups:
- One group practiced Yang-style tai chi
- The control group received wellness education and completed stretching exercises.
After 12 weeks, the group that practiced Tai chi reported a significant improvement in knee pain and increased function when compared to the control group.
How to Begin Practicing Tai Chi
As is true of any new form of exercise, the first step is to speak with your physician to gain their insight and approval. Once they’ve given you the green light to get started, there are a variety of options.
- Call the Michigan senior center nearest you or your local fitness center. Many offer classes on a regular basis.
- The Arthritis Foundation has a list of Tai chi DVDs that you can order. They range from spine stretches to shoulder and neck exercises.
- Search a platform like You Tube or Vimeo for free videos you can watch and learn. This might be a good way for a beginner to get started without spending any money.
Wellness programs like Tai chi are a part of daily life at Heritage Senior Communities in Michigan. We extend an open invitation for you to visit us and learn more about our commitment to keeping the older adults who call our communities “home,” healthy and thriving.
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My dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago. The past year or so he has really suffered from agitation. We’ve struggled to find ways to help him calm down.
One thing that we found helps is my daughter’s cat. When the cat sits with him and he is petting her, he seems more content. Of course the cat isn’t always willing to sit still with dad!
I’ve noticed ads and infomercials for stuffed animals that look very life-like. But I think the more realistic ones are a little on the expensive side. We thought before we purchase one we would see what an Alzheimer’s expert like you has to say about this idea.
Do you think a robotic pet would have the same result as a real one?
Pets to Help Soothe Agitation in People with Alzheimer’s
What an interesting question! And a good observation.
Pets have definitely been proven to be effective therapists. They are used in hospitals, nursing homes and even in hospice. For people with Alzheimer’s, they have a calming effect. They can also lift the spirit. Just the act of stroking a pet’s fur can help to decrease agitation. Research also shows it can aide in lowering blood pressure.
Furry friends are a common sight in nursing homes and assisted living communities that specialize in Alzheimer’s care. Now that technology has created such life-like pets, they are increasing in popularity too.
While many families have found them to be a helpful tool in improving the quality of life for a senior with Alzheimer’s, others believe there is an ethical issue in using them. Namely, they believe it compromises a senior’s dignity. That is a dilemma you will need to discuss with your family.
Here are two resources you might find helpful in learning more:
- Joy for All Companion Pets: This organization has both cats and dogs that look and seem like the real thing. Made by Hasbro, they are used in nursing homes and senior living centers.
- Paro: This is another robotic pet used in senior care. It looks like a seal and can interact and learn a senior’s behaviors. This one has been around longer and falls under the category of being a true robot. And at a price tag that is fairly significant. But you might benefit from reading some of the research on their site.
I hope this helps, Carole!
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The holidays can be a challenging time for Michigan’s family caregivers. Seasonal festivities such as shopping for gifts, wrapping presents, decorating the house and hosting parties are activities most of us look forward to all year. But for already overwhelmed family caregivers, the additional demands on their schedule can lead to burnout.
Not surprisingly, almost half of all caregivers say the holidays are just too much. If you find yourself struggling, these tips might be of help.
Managing Caregiver Stress during the Holidays
- Ask for and Accept Help: This can be difficult for family caregivers to do. Many see caregiving as a duty and they don’t want to ask for help. Remind yourself that if you suffer a health crisis of your own, as many caregivers do, you won’t be able to care for your loved one at all. Ask a friend who is going out shopping to pick up a few things for you. Talk to the staff at your church or synagogue to see
if there are volunteers available to assist struggling caregivers. Enlist the support of an in-home caregiver from a home care agency. Or take advantage of respite services at a senior living community near your Michigan home.
- Be Realistic: Pinterest, Instagram and other social media channels have given most of us unrealistic expectations of what the holidays should look like. It’s important to step back and set more realistic expectations for the season. It might mean using gift bags to “wrap” presents in or purchasing gift cards online instead of shopping for the perfect present.
- Connect with Fellow Caregivers Online: Creating a support system of fellow caregivers who can relate to and sympathize with your struggles is another great way to manage stress. In addition to the emotional support, you will likely be able to pick up some tips from support group members on how to juggle all of the responsibilities you have. A few highly regarded online support groups and forums include ALZ Connected and the Family Caregiver Alliance.
- Exercise: While the very idea of adding one more thing to your schedule might seem unrealistic, exercise can actually give you a mental and physical boost. And researchers now know that breaking your 30 minutes of daily exercise up in to segments (i.e. 2- fifteen minute walks or a fifteen minute walk combined with fifteen minutes on a stationary bike) have the same health benefits as 30 minutes of continuous exercise.
Our final holiday survival tip for family caregivers is to give yourself permission to say “no.” When someone asks you to bring a casserole to the church fundraiser or help wrap gifts for a local shelter, you might feel guilty about not pitching in. Remind yourself that it is okay to just take care of you and your family this year.
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The holidays are a time when many families plan a vacation together. If often includes three generations of loved ones. With careful and thoughtful planning, inter-generational getaways can allow busy families time to create long-lasting memories.
What can you do to make the trip more enjoyable for everyone?
Here are a few suggestions.
4 Tips for Planning an Intergenerational Vacation
- Research before Booking: The first step in planning your holiday getaway is to take time to research options. From the destination to the hotel and method of transportation, the details are important. Consider a hotel suite where your senior loved one has a quiet place to retreat to away from the sometimes noisy younger generation. If your loved one isn’t safe staying alone in the hotel, call the concierge at places you are considering staying to see if they can make arrangements for a respite caregiver. The concierge may have someone available or be able to help you enlist the support of a local home care agency.
- Be Considerate in Expectations: While your elders might not want to slow you down or cause you to incur additional expenses, sometimes it is necessary. For example, booking direct flights might be a little more expensive. But it is often the best way of traveling with both the older and the younger generations. If you are driving, be reasonable about how long you can all be in the car each day and plan rest breaks to stretch your legs. Also, remember to make special accommodations for both the younger and the elder generation at the attractions you visit. For example, all the walking at Disneyland or a national park can be tough on little legs and older knees. Call ahead or check the website to see if you can reserve a wheelchair and/or a stroller.
- Prepare a Medical File: No one likes to think the worst will happen during vacation. But planning ahead in case an older loved one has a medical emergency away from home is important. You can use an app like CareZone or MyMedical to make it easier. Both allow you to safely store medical information such as a medication list, medical history, and physician contact information. You can use your smart phone to quickly access it in the event of an emergency.
- Communication Shortcuts: Traveling with a senior who has Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia brings unique challenges. One of which can be communicating when their verbal skills are lost. It might help to create small cards that quickly explain your loved one’s situation. Then use them to hand to TSA agents during the screening process, flight attendants and others. It can help with communication while protecting your family member’s dignity.
Respite Care in Michigan
If your senior loved one isn’t up for a holiday trip this year, a respite stay at one of our Michigan senior living communities might be the solution.
Your family member can stay with us and enjoy all of the benefits and support our residents receive. You can relax and spend time with your own family knowing the older adult you love is safe and happy with us!