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Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure rises and falls during the day. When blood pressure stays elevated over time, it is called high blood pressure or hypertension.

Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers the systolic pressure (as the heart beats) over the diastolic pressure (when the heart is at rest). A consistent blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high blood pressure, another term for hypertension.

What is systolic blood pressure?
Systolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. It is shown as the top number in a blood pressure reading. High blood pressure is 140 and higher for systolic pressure. Diastolic pressure does not need to be high for you to have high blood pressure.

Is isolated systolic hypertension common? (ISH)
Yes. It is the most common form of high blood pressure for older people. Systolic blood pressure increases with age, while diastolic increases until about age 55 and then declines. About 65 percent of hypertensive people over age 60 have ISH. As with other types of high blood pressure, ISH often causes no symptoms.

Any form of high blood pressure is dangerous if not properly treated. Both numbers in a blood pressure test are important, but, for some, the systolic is especially meaningful. That's because, for those persons middle aged and older, systolic pressure gives a better diagnosis of high blood pressure.

If left uncontrolled, high systolic pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, kidney damage, blindness, or other conditions. While it cannot be cured once it has developed, ISH can be controlled.

Clinical studies have proven that treating a high systolic pressure can saves lives, greatly reduces illness, and improves the quality of life.

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Diastolic blood pressure
Diastolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. It's shown as the bottom number in a blood pressure reading.

The diastolic blood pressure has been and remains, especially for younger people, an important hypertension number. The higher the diastolic blood pressure the greater the risk for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. As people become older, the diastolic pressure will begin to decrease and the systolic blood pressure begins to rise and becomes more important. A rise in systolic blood pressure will also increase the chance for heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. Your physician will use both the systolic and the diastolic blood pressure to determine your blood pressure category and appropriate prevention and treatment activities. 

Tip!
Taking the BP in an emergency situation. Get your partner to hold the patients arm out straight. Always try to get the BP before moving off in the vehicle. Vehicle noise makes hearing both sounds difficult. If there is a lot of noise at the scene of the incident then put your stethoscope away, inflate the cuff until the you can no longer palpate the patient's radial pulse, release the air from the cuff in the normal way and feel for the radial output returning. Note the reading. This is the systolic pressure.

 

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