Systolic vs. Diastolic: Which is More Important?

Monitoring your blood pressure becomes more important as you age because you are at risk of various cardiovascular health conditions. Moreover, monitoring your blood pressure is extremely important if you already suffer from cardiovascular disease.

However, knowing what blood pressure is, how it is measured, and what it means can be confusing, especially since there are two types of blood pressure—systolic and diastolic.

This article discusses systolic and diastolic blood pressures. First, we’ll make a systolic vs. diastolic comparison to learn which is more important. Medical practitioners place more weight on one of these blood pressures than the other, and we’ll find out why.

What Is Blood Pressure?

Before talking about systolic and diastolic blood pressures, we need to know what blood pressure is. Simply put, blood pressure is a measurement of how much pressure your blood exerts on the walls of your arteries.

It’s not much different from water pressure inside a pipe or hose. Normal blood pressure means you are generally in good cardiovascular health.

However, high and low blood pressure can be caused by various diseases and conditions and cause other medical conditions. For instance, high blood pressure can lead to strokes and heart attacks.

As you may know, blood pressure readings feature two numbers—systolic and diastolic pressures. For reference, the blood pressure in a normal healthy adult human being should be 120/80 mm Hg.

How Is Blood Pressure Monitored?

It helps to know how these pressures are measured for us to make an accurate comparison between them. A sphygmomanometer, otherwise known as a blood pressure monitor, is used to measure blood pressure.

A blood pressure monitor consists of an inflatable cuff with an air pump and a small gauge that contains mercury. For this reason, blood pressure is measured in mm Hg, otherwise known as millimeters mercury.

A doctor will wrap the cuff around your arm and inflate it until the gauge reads around 30 points above your expected systolic blood pressure. Next, they will use a stethoscope to listen to the pulse in your arm, and when they can hear the first pulse, they look at the mercury gauge; this is what they record as the systolic blood pressure.

Then, the doctor will slowly let the air out of the cuff and continue listening to your pulse. Once the pulse fades and the last pulse has been heard through the stethoscope, the doctor will look at the mercury gauge and record this number, which is your diastolic blood pressure.

Now that you know how to take systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings, let’s discuss this.

Systolic vs. Diastolic

What Is Systolic Blood Pressure?

Systolic blood pressure indicates how much pressure is being exerted against your artery walls by your blood every time your heart beats. So when your heart beats, it creates pressure, which is what a systolic blood pressure reading tells you.

What Is Diastolic Blood Pressure?

Then, there’s diastolic blood pressure, the second number you will see in a blood pressure reading. Diastolic blood pressure indicates how much pressure is being exerted on the artery wall by your blood while your heart is resting between heartbeats.

Systolic vs. Diastolic: Which is More Important?

Now that we know both systolic and diastolic blood pressures and how they are measured, let’s discuss which is more important.

According to recent studies, both blood pressures are essential in determining the overall health of a being. However, medical practitioners usually put more weight on the first number, on systolic blood pressure, than on diastolic blood pressure. Systolic pressure is the best indicator of hypertension and a precursor to cardiac events. However, for an accurate picture of a person’s cardiovascular health, both systolic and diastolic pressures must be evaluated.

Systolic blood pressure is often seen as a significant risk factor for people over 50 developing cardiovascular disease. As people age, systolic blood pressure usually rises. This is because plaque builds up in the arteries as you age, and the arteries become stiffer. Increased age also leads to a greater risk of cardiac and vascular disease.

Moreover, the chance of stroke or ischemic heart disease doubles with every 10 mm Hg of diastolic blood pressure increase and an increase of 20 mm Hg of systolic blood pressure in people between 40 and 89.

What Is Normal Blood Pressure In a Healthy Adult?

There are generally between three and five stages of blood pressure for adults.

  • Normal blood pressure in a healthy adult is 120/80; your systolic blood pressure should be less than 120 mm Hg, and your diastolic blood pressure less than 80 mm Hg.
  • If you have systolic blood pressure between 120 and 129 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure lower than 80 mm Hg, you are at risk of high blood pressure, also known as the prehypertension stage.
  • You have high blood pressure if you have a systolic blood pressure of 130 mm Hg or higher and a diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm Hg or higher.

The higher your blood pressure is passed in the normal range, the higher the chances of suffering a hypertensive emergency.

High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease, heart attacks, and heart failure. It can also lead to various brain-related issues, such as strokes. In addition, high blood pressure may lead to the development of kidney disease.

Final Thoughts

Systolic and diastolic blood pressures are essential for determining the overall cardiovascular health of a human being. However, more weight is placed on systolic blood pressure, especially when determining how at risk a specific person is for developing heart- and vascular-related diseases as they age.