Which Is More Important: Systolic or Diastolic Blood Pressure?

Reviewed on 5/6/2021
blood pressure reading
Both systolic and diastolic blood pressure are important in monitoring heart health

When it comes to measuring high blood pressure (hypertension), many wonder whether the number on top (systolic) is more important than the number on the bottom (diastolic).

Typically, systolic blood pressure is given more attention as a risk factor for heart disease. However, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure are equally important in monitoring the health of your heart.

What the numbers measure

  • Systolic blood pressure indicates the amount of pressure being exerted on the walls of your arteries when your heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure indicates the amount of pressure being exerted on the walls of your arteries in between heartbeats.

Blood pressure ranges

  • Normal: Under 120/80 mm Hg
  • Elevated: 120-129 systolic, under 80 mm Hg diastolic
  • Hypertension Stage I: 130-139 systolic, 80-89 mm Hg diastolic
  • Hypertension Stage II: Over 140/90 mm Hg
  • Hypertensive crisis: Over 180/120 mmHg. This is a dangerously high reading and requires immediate medical attention.

What are the health risks of high blood pressure?

Recent studies have shown that both high systolic blood pressure and high diastolic blood pressure pose health risks:

What foods help lower blood pressure?

If your blood pressure reads consistently higher than 130/80 when you are in a lying down position, you are considered to have high blood pressure

While limiting alcohol consumption and avoiding smoking are the best ways to lower blood pressure, changes to your diet are important as well. Below are examples of foods that can help you bring your blood pressure under control:

  • Olive oil: Olive oil is packed with antioxidants and polyphenols that can help lower blood pressure. For maximum health benefits, it’s best to use extra virgin olive oil and eat it as a dressing instead of frying or cooking your food in it.
  • Flaxseeds: Studies have shown that flaxseeds are a powerful superfood packed with nutrients. Flaxseeds contain alpha-linolenic acid, an essential omega-3 fatty acid, which helps to lower blood pressure and can also reduce total cholesterol. Flaxseeds can be sprinkled on salads, smoothies or baked goods.
  • Low-sodium foods: Limiting salt in the diet is the best way to help kidney function and lower blood pressure. 
  • High-potassium foods: Potassium-rich foods also help to lower blood pressure by helping the kidneys flush sodium out of the system. High-potassium foods include spinach,bananas, melons, oranges, apricots, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tuna, salmon, beans, nuts, seeds, Swiss chard and white beans. 
  • High-magnesium foods: Magnesium can help relax the blood vessels, making it easier for blood to pass through. Magnesium-rich foods include vegetables, dairy, chicken, legumes and whole grains.

SLIDESHOW

How to Lower Blood Pressure: Exercise Tips See Slideshow

Is low blood pressure dangerous?

Low blood pressure (hypotension) doesn’t cause problems in most people. However, severe hypotension can cause lack of blood flow to the brain, causing dizziness, blackouts or loss of consciousness. It may even be life-threatening in severe cases. 

In a low blood pressure reading, systolic and diastolic numbers may fall below 90 and 60 mm Hg, respectively. 

Low blood pressure is typically a symptom of an underlying medical condition or aging-related medical condition. It’s important to pay attention to low blood pressure in its initial stages. Symptoms may include:

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References
Systolic and diastolic hypertension independently associated with CV outcomes: https://pace-cme.org/2019/07/22/systolic-and-diastolic-hypertension-independently-associated-with-cv-outcomes/

Understanding Low Blood Pressure -the Basics: https://www.webmd.com/heart/understanding-low-blood-pressure-basics#

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