Posts Tagged ‘isolated systolic hypertension’

It is tempting to fix the  “Force of cardiac  contractility” ,  to be the  prime determinant  of  systolic  blood pressure* .  Rather ,  it is  influenzed heavily  by   multitude of anatomical  and  physiological factors.

                                        ”  In most  life instances  the primary determinant  blood pressure  is not the state of cardiac contractility  “

                 For many ,  this  would  appear as  shocker of  a statement !

Fellows  should not be  confused with above inference  . What it means is ,  the  heart initiates  the blood pressure by a brief  period of  systole .The pulse wave attains a peak during ejection phase  . This is the peak systolic blood pressure  . There is nothing called  sustained  systolic  blood pressure .  The quantum and  duration of peak systolic pressure  contributed by the LV contraction  is  far less than we imagine .

If blood pressure is to be controlled   primarily  by  cardiac contractility , how is that ,  a  blood  pressure of   about 80mmhg is maintained throughout diastole when the heart is taking rest and the  aortic  valves  are closed  ?

The  major elastic blood vessels  aorta and the major branches use the potential  energy gained during systole  (Like a rubber band )  into   kinetic energy as vessels recoil during diastole . This recoil  imparts an   important component  to the  diastolic blood pressure  augmentation  and maintenance.

It is  prudent to note  since  diastole is  much  longer than systole  , integrity of the vascular tree  become  much more important  to maintain the blood  pressure  till the next systole arrives.


*The cardiac contractility  , might  still be  important  in determining systolic BP  in  patients  with  severely compromised  LV function** For example ,  in  dilated cardiomyopathy  with  LV failure ,  systolic blood pressure will  be directly related to LV  function.  When LV function is critically  low , the elastic  blood vessels  fail  to  amplify the blood pressure  beyond  a limit.

**Still it is not  uncommon to find high systolic blood pressure  recorded in the back ground of with severe LV dysfunction especially hypertensive individuals.

What happens during aging ?

The  aorta and it’s major branches  gets thickened , the  vascular collagen  goes  cracking  with wear and tear of  life.  In effect , these vessels become less compliant . So , when blood is rapidly ejected  from the  left ventricle  into aorta  and their branches  it’s  distensibility   is  reduced  .This  fails to dampen the  pressure  wave  and  hence systolic  pressure spiking occurs. This we refer to systolic hypertension of elderly.

It is  important to  emphasise   major elastic arteries  has a big  say in fixing the systolic pressure. For the same cardiac output systolic pressure can surge in elderly this  is why we have kept the normal  in adults as 16o mmhg.

Another key point to be understood  is  ,  Aortic compliance  has an impact on diastole blood  pressure too ! . The  stiff vessels during diastole bring  less diastolic recoil. Diastolic recoil of large elastic arteries  determines the diastolic pressure . Hence there  could be  a mild fall in diastolic pressure with physiological aging when recoil is attenuated .  Since the  reduced diastolic  recoil ensures diastolic pressure from being elevated  the entity is aptly named as isolated systolic hypertension.(ISH)

Image courtesey :Norman M Kaplan, Lionel H Opie Lancet 2006; 367: 168–76

Final message

While the traditional  teaching  ramains  as  systolic blood  pressure  would be determined by cardiac contractility  / cardiac out put , while the   diastolic pressure is determined by peripheral  vascular  resistance .This is not an absolute reality ,  rather it is  too simplistic way of teaching circulatory physiology !

The  peak systolic blood  pressure is more often determined by the integrity of  Aortic  and major arteries   rather than cardiac contractility  and stroke volume. Similarly , aortic properties do have a  say in the diastolic pressure as well !

Further reading and debate

 The net effect of aging  on blood pressure :  Is it  physiological or pathological  ?

  Should we  treat  this  raised  pressure due to aging  related systolic hypertension  ?

There is a huge controversy going around ,  regarding the need  of  treating this mild elevation of systolic  blood pressure due to arterial stiffening .This will be addressed separately in this forum .



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  • Hypertension  is  major determinant of cardiovascular health  of our global population
  • Millions suffer,   hundreds of societies ,  and as many guidelines , and drugs are still struggling  to control the menace.
  • An important sub group of HT , (ie IDH ) population has been neglected and never received the scientific interest , which it deserves !
  • In our study it occured in 7.2% of all HT  patients.
  • JNC,  the world authority on HT never considered  IDH as a separate entity, and as of now there is no specific guidelines.
  • And the irony is complete . There is not  a  major study available to analyse the differential effects of anti hypertensive drugs on systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

If  a patient with the BP of 120/96 asks you , “Doctor , will the drug,   you have prescribed , selectively lower my diastolic blood pressure ” what will be your answer ?

A clear ,  I don”t know !

The following paper was presented in the World congress of cardiology Sydney  2002

Isolated  Diastolic Hypertension

S.Venkatesan,S.D.Jayaraj.Gnanavelu, Madras Medical College. Madras, India.

Abstract : Systemic  hypertension  continues to  be a major determinant of cardiovascular  morbidity. While isolated systolic hypertension(ISH) has been identified as a specific clinical entity, isolated  diastolic  hypertension(IDH) has not been reported as a separate group. When we analysed our data from our hypertension   clinic  we found  a distinct subgroup of patients who had  elevated  diastolic blood pressure   with  normal systolic pressure. We report the clinical profile of these patients. 440 newly registered hypertensive  patients between the year 1998-99  formed the study population. All  patients with secondary hypertension  were excluded.. IDH  was defined as  diastolic BP more than 90mmhg and systolic BP less than 140mmhg.

IDH was present in 32(7.2%) patients.  The male female ratio was 3:1, mean age was 42(Range32-56) The mean diastolic pressure was 96 mm (Range 90-110).The mean systolic pressure was 136mm(Range 128-140). LVH was observed in 4 patients(12.5%). Diastolic dysfunction was detected by echocardiography   in 20patients.(62%)

We conclude that isolated diastolic hypertension  constitute a  significant subset among  hypertensive  patients and they need further study regarding the pathogenesis, clinical  presentation and  therapeutic implication.

Link to PPT  will be available soon .

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