Blood pressure is always given as two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Both are important. The systolic pressure is the first or top number, and the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number (for example, 120/80). If your blood pressure is 120/80, you say that it is “120 over 80”.
Both of these numbers do not need to be high for you to have high blood pressure. Either one or both can be high for you to have high blood pressure.
High systolic blood pressure occurs at a pressure of 140 and higher.
Diastolic pressure does not need to be high for you to have high blood pressure. When your systolic blood pressure is high and your diastolic blood pressure is low, the condition is called isolated systolic hypertension or ISH.
Isolated systolic high blood pressure is the most common form of high blood pressure for older people in the Western world. For most westerners, systolic blood pressure increases with age, while diastolic increases until about age 55 and then declines.
About 65 percent of hypertensives over age 60 have ISH.
You may have ISH and feel fine. As with other types of high blood pressure, ISH often causes no symptoms. To find out if you have ISH or any type of high blood pressure consult your doctor and have a blood pressure test. The test is quick and painless.
Any form of high blood pressure is dangerous if not properly treated. Both numbers in a blood pressure test are important, but, for some people, the systolic blood pressure is particularly meaningful. In middle aged and older people, systolic pressure tends to give 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, and other serious conditions. While it cannot be cured once it has developed, ISH can be controlled.
Clinical studies have proven that treating a high systolic pressure saves lives, greatly reduces illness, and improves the quality of life. Yet, most westerners do not have their high systolic pressure under control.
Treatment options for ISH are the same as for other types of high blood pressure, in which both systolic and/or diastolic blood pressures are high : lifestyle changes and/or medications. The key for any high blood pressure treatment is to bring the condition under proper control as soon as possible.
Blood pressure should be controlled to less than 140/90 mmHg. If yours is not, then ask your doctor why. You may just need a lifestyle or drug change, such as reducing salt in your diet or adding a second medication or changing medication.
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