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Gerontology, also known as the study of human aging, reveals that there is a direct connection between blood pressure and age. The period of growth from infancy to adolescence is normally accompanied by a steady rise in blood pressure in humans. As people reach adulthood, this trend slightly decreases, only to pick up or fall further with advancing age. This ambivalence is reflected by the widening range of blood pressures during the later parts in life; these dramatic physiological and hormonal changes occur naturally with aging.
For example, after reaching adulthood, the thymus gland typically begins to deteriorate, compromising the autoimmune system and making the body more susceptible to illnesses. By age 50, women undergo menopause, which signals a decrease in estrogen production, putting them at risk to serious health-related changes like hypertension. Also, at about mid-life, collagen secretion starts to drop, which stiffens joints and blurs vision, two common complaints of senior citizens. Each of these changes adds stress to the heart, causing blood pressure to rise and confirming the parallelism between blood pressure and age.
As the heart compensates for the wearing out of other organs, it must also cope with its own natural aging process. This includes the accumulation of fats in its muscles that cause the valve to tighten, making the heart work even harder while elevating blood pressure levels. With time, this pressure plus the diminishing supply of collagen results in the hardening of arteries, giving another direct correlation between increasing blood pressure and age.
There are some studies, however, that point to an inverse relationship between blood pressure and age among the senior population. These results contend that the worsening condition of body organs actually wears down the heart and reduces blood pressure. At the same time, the total amount of water decreases within the body, which can lower the blood volume and a cause a corresponding slide in blood pressure. Recent statistics also show that low blood pressure, not high, is more commonly associated with deaths among the elderly.
These opposing perspectives on the correlation between blood pressure and age further clarify the wide blood pressure ranges considered to be a normal level among the aging. It is also argued that the current data could be influenced by other factors such as lifestyle and environment, which can also alter the impact of blood pressure and age. This reaction surfaced with the recent finding that in some non-industrialized countries, blood pressure does not increase after age 18. With more in-depth research in gerontology, the link between blood pressure and age should be more clearly defined in the future.