Systolic Pressure Is Too High In Many

Woman checking blood pressure in living room
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For many years, physicians have concentrated on treating hypertension, or high blood pressure, by trying to lower the diastolic pressure―the lower number in a blood pressure reading. But researchers of a large study found that most middle-aged and older individuals with high blood pressure have a form of the disease in which the systolic pressure (the top number) is too high.

According to Nathan D.

Wang Ph.D., director of the Heart Disease Prevention Program, University of California, Irvine, "The higher the systolic pressure, the greater the risk of death and disability from heart disease."

High blood pressure is defined as having a systolic blood pressure of 140mm Hg or higher (top number) and/or diastolic pressure (bottom number) of 90mmHg or higher for most people. When the systolic pressure is 140 mm Hg or higher but the diastolic pressure remains below 90 mm Hg, the condition is known as isolated systolic hypertension. The study found that isolated systolic hypertension is the dominant form of uncontrolled high blood pressure in people over the age of 50. Among the study participants, over 80 percent of individuals in this age group who have hypertension have uncontrolled isolated systolic hypertension. Among those over the age of 60, the number is even higher.

Physicians have traditionally focused on treating high blood pressure by trying to lower the diastolic pressure to keep it at 90 or slightly lower.

Nathan Wong noted that many physicians are satisfied when the minimum goal of 140 systolic and 90 diastolic is reached. But he feels the minimum goal isn't enough. "The optimal goal is systolic pressure below 120 and diastolic below 80," he says.

Additionally, this large study indicated a poor level of awareness, treatment, and control of high blood pressure in all age groups.

The study showed that about 48 percent of individuals with high blood pressure are not being treated for the condition, while 29 percent are inadequately treated.

Hypertension Complications

High blood pressure is the leading cause of many life threatening or disabling diseases, including stroke, kidney failure, and heart attack. People who have diabetes, especially uncontrolled diabetes, are more prone to high blood pressure. Adequate treatment of hypertension can reduce health risks, improve quality and quantity of life and reduce overall costs of healthcare. An acute stroke and subsequent rehabilitation can rack up thousands of dollars in medical costs. The emotional costs to both patient and loved ones are equally high.

Hypertension Treatments

  • Medication
    There are many very effective medications available for physicians in treating hypertension. The physician will monitor blood work and effects to find the right medication or the right combination of medications. It is very important for patients to take medications as prescribed by their physician. Skipping or forgetting doses of these medications can cause serious problems.
  • Diet
    Losing weight and following a low fat diet has been shown to help decrease high blood pressure. The DASH Diet has been shown to be a very effective treatment for lowering blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Exercise
    Exercise in conjunction with proper diet can also be very effective in the treatment of high blood pressure. Exercise can help reduce stress and enhance weight loss efforts.

Be sure to have your blood pressure checked at each and every visit to your doctor and ask for the results. If it is high or if only the top number is high, be sure to ask about ways you can help lower your blood pressure.