For patients over 50, doctors only need to monitor the upper systolic blood pressure, and can ignore the lower diastolic blood pressure reading, said Padma Shri and Dr B C Roy National Awardee Dr KK Aggarwal, President Heart Care Foundation of
Systolic blood pressure – the top number in a blood pressure reading – is the pressure exerted at the beginning of the heart's pumping cycle, while diastolic pressure records the lowest pressure during the resting cycle of the heart. Both pressures are routinely measured when recording the blood pressure.
As per a report published in the journal The Lancet, there is such an emphasis on diastolic pressure that the patients are not getting their systolic blood pressures adequately controlled. The fact is that people over the age of 50 probably do not even need to measure diastolic – it's only the systolic blood pressure that should be the focus.
Generally, systolic blood pressure continues to increase with age, while diastolic pressure starts to drop after age 50, which is the same time when cardiovascular risk begins to rise. Therefore, there is an increased prevalence of systolic hypertension past age 50, whereas diastolic hypertension is practically nonexistent. Rising systolic pressure is the most significant factor in causing stroke and heart disease.
For people under 50, the scenario may be different. About 40 percent of adults under 40 years of age have diastolic hypertension, and about a third of those between 40 and 50 have the problem. For these patients, a continued emphasis on both systolic and diastolic blood pressures is needed. However, controlling systolic blood pressure, even among these younger patients, almost always results in adequate control of diastolic blood pressure, too.
For people 50 or older, systolic pressure is high if it is 140 mmHg or above.