Posts Tagged ‘systolic vs diastolic blood pressure’

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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