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Healthy Heart Reports

High Blood Pressure Systolic/diastolic


Thirty years ago, doctors though that having a high diastolic blood pressure put you at high risk for heart attacks, but the Framingham study changed all that. You have two blood pressures: the systolic that measures blood pressure when your heart contracts, and the much lower diastolic when your heart relaxes. When your heart contracts, it pushes a huge amount of blood forward to your arteries. Your arteries are supposed to act like balloons and expand to accept the blood and prevent your blood pressure from rising too high. Having plaques in your arteries stiffens them and prevents them from expanding when your heart contracts, causing your blood pressure to rise higher than normal; and the stiffer your arteries, the higher your blood pressure rises.

Diastolic blood pressure is only a weak predictor of your susceptibility for a heart attack. The Framingham study shows that the systolic heart contraction blood pressure is far more important than the diastolic relaxation blood pressure to determines your likelihood to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Your risk is increased further if you have high blood cholesterol, sugar or insulin, an enlarged heart or if you are overweight.

WB Kannel.Historic perspectives on the relative contributions of diastolic and systolic blood pressure elevation to cardiovascular risk profile.American Heart Journal, 1999, Vol 138, Iss 3, Part 2, Suppl. S, pp S205-S210.

Copyright 2003
Dr. Mirkin's opinions and the references cited are for information only, and are not intended to diagnose or prescribe. For your specific diagnosis and treatment, consult your doctor or health care provider.

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