A New Study Says Systolic Hypertension May Be Under Treated In The United States

Dr. Joanne Foody is talking to her patient Bart Moran about systolic blood pressure versus diastolic blood pressure.

"Those are two words that are not part of my vocabulary, so maybe you should tell me what they mean."

Systolic blood pressure is the top number and diastolic is the bottom. So if your blood pressure is 140 over 80, 140 is the systolic pressure.

A new study in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, says that high systolic blood pressure in people age 60 and older could be under-treated in the U.S.

Dr. Sarwat Chaudhry/West Haven VA Medical Clinic: "We reviewed all available medical literature from the last 38 years to identify over 1,000 reports, to help us explore the issues pertaining to management of systolic hypertension in the elderly."

Dr. Sarwat Chaudhry co-authored the study with Dr. Foody of Yale University School of Medicine. They say it was thought that systolic blood pressure of 140 or higher was just a natural part of aging.

Dr. Joanne Foody/Yale University School of Medicine: "We now know that it is associated with significant risk and that potentially by treating and lowering blood pressure, we can reduce stroke, heart disease, heart attack and even heart failure in our patients."

Dr. Sarwat Chaudhry/West Haven VA Medical Clinic: "There is strong evidence to support the treatment of patients who have a systolic blood pressure of at least 160."

Their research revealed less evidence supporting treatment for those with systolic blood pressure of 140 to 159, but that is still high and could be dangerous to elderly people.

Bart Moran/Has High Systolic Blood Pressure: "It's important that patients and physicians work together to understand and individualize the treatment plan for each patient."

That's what Bart Moran wants to do.

Bart Moran/Has High Systolic Blood Pressure: "I'd like to live just a little longer, you know. And I'm depending on someone else's knowledge to get me there."

His physician's knowledge, but now he also knows how important systolic blood pressure can be.