What Is Systolic Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the amount of stress exerted on the walls of the blood vessels from the circulating blood. When a health professional assesses blood pressure, he or she will measure the level of both the systolic blood pressure and the diastolic blood pressure and write the measurement as systolic over diastolic, for example 120/80.

Systolic blood pressure, the top number, is the maximum amount of pressure exerted on the blood vessel walls during each beat of the heart. It occurs at the end of each cardiac cycle when the ventricles, the bottom chambers of the heart, are contracting to pump blood out of the heart into the veins. Maintaining the proper systolic blood pressure is important for keeping the blood flowing through the blood vessels so that the body'?'s cells get oxygen and nutrients delivered when needed.

Normal range for systolic blood pressure is 90 mm Hg to 119 mm Hg for adults aged 18 and older. When systolic blood pressure is consistently over 140 mm Hg, patients have a condition called isolated systolic hypertension. Systolic pressure is too low if it is below 90 mm HG, a condition called hypotension. 

It was once thought that diastolic blood pressure was more important than systolic pressure when determining if a patient has hypertension. However, now medical experts measure pulse pressure as a sign of cardiac health. Pulse pressure is the difference between systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.

Systolic blood pressure changes frequently during the day due to factors such as posture, nicotine use, and level of exercise. As we age, systolic blood pressure tends to rise. Elderly patients may have systolic pressure above what is considered normal because of reduced flexibility in the blood vessel walls.

If systolic blood pressure is high, the treatment to reduce the number to a normal level is the same as with other types of hypertension. Diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation and weight loss, are attempted first. If these do not succeed, medications can be used to reduce the amount of pressure exerted on the blood vessel walls.

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