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If you have had a blood pressure reading, you would have heard the terms diastolic and systolic blood pressure readings. So, when you see a blood pressure measurement, it’s nice to know how to interpret them.
A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80. The number is written as systolic pressure/diastolic pressure.
- The systolic pressure is your highest pressure when your heart is in the middle of a contraction.
- Your diastolic pressure is your lowest pressure when your heart is between beats.
What Is Diastolic Blood Pressure?
Your diastolic pressure is actually the one that’s most important for physicians when looking at blood pressure. If it’s too high, your systolic pressure will almost always be too high as well. Above 90 and you may be considered to have hypertension – high blood pressure.
- Often when people exercise or are under sudden stress, their systolic pressure rises but the diastolic pressure stays about the same.
- This is normal and is rarely cause for concern if it happens only at isolated times.
However, when diastolic pressure is high, this is generally a sign that you have high blood pressure all the time. It’s important to continue to monitor your blood pressure regularly by taking it and recording it. Then you can share that information with your healthcare provider.
If you do have high blood pressure, you may be able to work on changing some lifestyle choices before going on medication. While lifestyle changes don’t always help lower high blood pressure, they can. For example:
- Losing weight and eating a diet to lower high blood pressure might help diastolic pressure to go down.
- Stress management and exercise can also help you to get back to normal with your blood pressure.
However, if your blood pressure is very high your doctor may prescribe medications. (Although you may prefer natural blood pressure supplements instead.) High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke, so you don’t want to wait if your blood pressure is very high.
Your doctor will probably have you start medication and then begin working on your lifestyle as well. When you begin any diet or exercise program, it’s important to talk with your doctor if ou have high blood pressure. You don’t want to increase your risk of heart disease.
Having high blood pressure can be scary, but the best way to alleviate fears is to get educated and take control of your own health. Understanding what is diastolic pressure is a great first step toward understanding your blood pressure and learning how to control it.
What Is Systolic Blood Pressure?
As we said above, if you see a blood pressure reading, for example: 120/80, the number on the top, in this case 120, is the systolic pressure. This is the higher pressure when your heart is actually contracting.
These numbers are measured in mmHg or millimeters of mercury. Mercury is used in the machine that you use to take the blood pressure reading.
- Systolic pressure tends to vary more than diastolic pressure.
- For example, when you exercise or get nervous, it’s not uncommon for it to go up 20-40 mmHg, but the diastolic pressure may only go up 10 mmHg.
Isolated Systolic Hypertension
Usually when someone has high blood pressure both their systolic and diastolic pressures are high, however occasionally a person may have only high systolic pressure over 140 and this is called isolated systolic hypertension.
The trouble with this type of hypertension is that when it’s treated with medications, it can often cause the diastolic number to go too low.
- Just as any hypertension can cause bad health, isolated systolic hypertension can lead to heart disease, stroke, dementia, and kidney disease.
- You’ll be even more at risk for these if you have problems such as diabetes, are a smoker, or are overweight or obese.
- It’s important if you’ve been diagnosed with this type of high blood pressure that you pay careful attention to lifestyle factors.
Making sure you get as close to your ideal weight as possible, stopping tobacco use, lowering the sodium in your diet, and managing stress can all help you to lower blood pressure without medications.
You may also want to look into dietary supplements such as Coenzyme Q10. However, this supplement can also lower diastolic pressure as much as 10mmHg, so it’s important to talk with your doctor before using it.
Understanding what is systolic blood pressure can help you to make sense of your blood pressure readings.