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Definition of Systolic

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Systolic: The blood pressure when the heart is contracting. It is specifically the maximum arterial pressure during contraction of the left ventricle of the heart. The time at which ventricular contraction occurs is called systole.

In a blood pressure reading, the systolic pressure is typically the first number recorded. For example, with a blood pressure of 120/80 ("120 over 80"), the systolic pressure is 120. By "120" is meant 120 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury).

A systolic murmur is a heart murmur heard during systole, the time the heart contracts, between the normal first and second heart sounds.

"Systolic" comes from the Greek systole meaning "a drawing together or a contraction." The term has been in use since the 16th century to denote the contraction of the heart muscle.

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Reviewed on 12/11/2018

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