What is High Systolic Blood Pressure?

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  • Written By: Jacob Queen
  • Edited By: Lauren Fritsky
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2018
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When doctors take blood pressure readings, they generally use two different numbers to determine if an individual is healthy. There is both a diastolic and systolic reading. The diastolic number is based on the blood pressure level in between each heartbeat, while the systolic is the pressure rating during a heartbeat. Some people with high blood pressure will have high numbers on both readings, but as people age, many of them find that their diastolic reading lowers while the systolic remains high. This condition is called high systolic blood pressure.

The number most doctors use to define a high systolic blood pressure reading is 140 millimeters of mercury (about 5 inches), and this is a common measurement system used in most places around the world. Anything at or above that level is generally considered high. Numbers below that level are considered safe, but when a person’s systolic blood pressure nears the 140 level, she is diagnosed with a condition called "pre high blood pressure," and she may be asked to take certain health precautions.


When doctors first discovered the dangers of high blood pressure, they were actually much more concerned about the diastolic reading. There was a general feeling that a high level of blood pressure while the heart was at rest signaled a more significant danger, but that was eventually proven untrue. In reality, people generally start with both numbers elevated, and as they age, the diastolic number will often decrease gradually, while the systolic blood pressure often stays the same or worsens.

Generally, when people develop high systolic blood pressure, they can face many different disorders. For example, high systolic blood pressure raises the chances of heart attacks and strokes. It can even cause damage to certain organs in the body. One of the reasons this happens is because high blood pressure increases strain on a person’s arteries, which leads to the development of plaque. Over time, this plaque can actually clog the arteries and eventually lead to situations where not enough blood is reaching vital areas.

When treating high systolic blood pressure, doctors often use diuretics, which decrease the pressure by lowering the overall blood supply. There is also a significant use of drugs called angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, among others. People can improve high blood pressure problems and even lessen their chances of ever developing them in the first place by getting in better physical shape and eating a healthier diet.



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