Is The Top (Systolic) Or The Bottom (Diastolic) Blood Pressure More Important, Or Is The Average?

Dr. Clyde Yancy answers the question: 'Importance Of Blood Pressure Numbers?'

— -- Question: Is the top (systolic) or the bottom (diastolic) blood pressure more important?

Answer: One of the big questions about high blood pressure is: what is it? Well, it's these two numbers that are generated that reflect the highest pressure that your heart generates with each heart beat. And then kind of the lower steady state pressure that the heart generates when it relaxes. Those two numbers are expressed as a top number and a bottom number. We call it systolic and diastolic in medicine, but the consumer can just think of it as a top number and a bottom number.

And importantly, the number that we think is most important in terms of identifying risk and predicting disease is that top number. That top number should be less than 120 millimeters of mercury. If it's much more than 120 we're concerned, and if it's above 140, it needs to be treated. Why? Because high blood pressure leads to heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke. And the sooner we get it treated, the less likely we are to deal with those issues.