High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a long term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated.
Normal blood pressure at rest is within the range of 100–140 millimeters mercury (mmHg) systolic and 60–90 mmHg diastolic.
High blood pressure is present if the resting blood pressure is persistently at or above 140/90 mmHg for most adults.
However, in many old people, the systolic blood pressure is elevated (>140), while the diastolic blood pressure is normal (<90).
This is in fact quite common in in the elderly, and accounts for about 60% of all hypertensive conditions in the population aged over 65 years.
Previous research shows that systolic hypertension may be due to reduced compliance of the aorta with increasing age.
Additionally, artery stiffness, heart valve problems or an overactive thyroid may also increase the risk of systolic hypertension.
Systolic hypertension is very harmful to the body.
It could increase the load on the ventricle and compromises coronary blood flow, eventually resulting in serious diseases, such as left ventricular hypertrophy, coronary ischemia, and heart failure.
The landmark systolic hypertension in the Elderly Program (SHEP) study has shown that lowering the systolic blood pressure in elderly patients with could strongly reduce risk of a heart attack and stroke.
The goal of treating systolic hypertension is to delay and reduce the extent of damage to the heart, the cerebrovascular system, and the kidneys.
Lifestyle interventions are a crucial element of successful treatment of systolic hypertension, including a diet low in sodium (salt) and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
In addition, people with systolic hypertension need to maintain a healthy body weight, increase daily physical activity, quit smoking, limit alcohol drinking, and monitor blood pressure.
During the treatment, it is important not to lower the diastolic blood pressure too much. People with a very lower-than-normal diastolic number may have higher risk of heart disease.