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Aging Changes In Vital Signs

  • Listening with stethoscope (auscultation)
  • Sphygmomanometer (Blood Pressure Meter)

Definition

Normal changes in vital signs occur as an individual ages. Vital signs include temperature, pulse, blood pressure, and breathing rate.

What is the information for this topic?

As an individual ages, vital signs change in certain ways.
Temperature
The body temperature often remains normal. However, the body must work harder to control temperature. As a person ages, the skin becomes thinner and less elastic, or stretchable. The layer of fat tissue under the skin also becomes thinner. This is the reason older people often feel cold in a room that has normal temperature. The ability to get rid of excess heat by sweating is also reduced, making older persons more likely to suffer in hot weather. It may also become more difficult to sense changes in body temperature.
Pulse
Pulse is a measure of heart rate over a 1-minute period of time. As a person ages, the heart rate at rest usually remains the same but may gradually increase if his or her heart or lung functions become impaired of if he or she has any of a number of other chronic illnesses. In an older person, the heart rate may not speed up as quickly with exercise, and may also take longer to return to normal after exercise.
Blood Pressure
Many people have an increase in their blood pressure with age. This partially caused by changes in the heart and blood vessels that come with age, but many time it is also related to increasing obesity, and lack of exercise over many years. Some individuals develop orthostatic hypotension, or a rapid drop in blood pressure when they stand up. Regardless of the cause, high blood pressure is usually treated to reduce the risk of strokes and heart attacks.
Breathing Rate
The breathing rate is less affected by age than other vital signs. However, lung function decreases with age. The individual may need to exercise less strenuously or for a shorter period of time.
Prevention
Medicines can be used to control medical problems that cause abnormal vital signs. However, it is also true that some medicines can cause changes in vital signs as an unintended side effect. Any problems with these medicines should be reported to the healthcare professional. These include:
  • diuretics, which can cause low blood pressure
  • some medicines for treatment of heart disease, which can lower blood pressure or pulse
  • some pain medicines, which may slow the breathing rate
Many steps can be taken to help keep vital signs under control. Certain tips can help avoid problems with vital signs. Elderly individuals should avoid:
  • extreme hot or cold conditions
  • overly vigorous exercise
  • rapid changes in position, such as suddenly standing up from a prone position
  • smoking
They should:
  • make sure to drinking plenty of water and eating a healthy diet
  • if physically able, get regular exercise three times per week for 30 minutes that is both aerobic and strengthens and conditions muscles
Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

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