Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood against the blood vessels (arteries) in the body. There are two blood pressure numbers – higher and lower. The higher number is systolic pressure and this is the pressure of arteries when the heart contracts. Diastolic pressure is the lower number, representing the pressure in the blood vessels between the beats, when the heart relaxes.
Optimal blood pressure for adults is considered to be below 120/80 mm Hg. There are several types of hypertension, but in general, person with systolic pressure above 140mm Hg and diastolic higher than 90mm Hg is diagnosed with high blood pressure. Patient that has systolic pressure above 140mm Hg and diastolic pressure under 90mmHg is diagnosed with isolated systolic hypertension (ISH).
ISH treatment goal is to reduce the systolic pressure below
140mm Hg, and to decrease the risk of coronary artery disease and stroke in
these patients. This condition
is frequent in older people, because the most common cause of ISH is aging.
ISH is treated with the same medications as any other hypertension. The most commonly used drugs are: angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE Inhibitors), beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and diuretics.
ACE inhibitors work by relaxing the muscles around arteries, causing dilatation of these blood vessels and leading to decreased blood pressure.
Beta blockers efficiently regulate the heart beats, decrease cardiac output (blood volume pumped by the heart in one minute) and dilate blood vessels.
Calcium channel blockers are proven to be very successful in treating the isolated systolic hypertension. These medications stop the influx of calcium into the heart muscle cells. Less calcium leads to less heart contraction and dilatation of arteries.
Diuretics are also important medications in this condition. By removing the fluid buildup from the body these drugs can lower high blood pressure.
Lifestyle changes could also benefit patients with systolic high blood pressure. Specialists often advise ISH patients to exercise. Physical activity, especially, aerobic exercises are known to regulate high blood pressure. They also strengthen the heart and help the patients to maintain healthy weight.
Diet changes are also necessary. ISH patients are advised to avoid salt, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol and use plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Salty and fatty food should also be avoided. Nicotine (found in tobacco) causes constriction of the blood vessels, worsening the existing hypertension. Smokers are therefore advised to quit and all patients should avoid exposure to smoke.