Isolated Systolic Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)

If you are in your 50s like me, isolated systolic hypertension is the most common form of high blood pressure. Observing the patients at the medical center, I’ve seen many reasons why this happens. Therefore, let’s take a look at, what is Isolated Systolic Hypertension?

Isolated systolic hypertension is having systolic blood pressure consistently 130 mm Hg or higher and diastolic blood pressure less than 80 mm Hg. It’s the most common high blood pressure for the elderly but younger people can have it also.

This article will explore in further detail about isolated systolic hypertension. You’ll find out why the elderly gets it more, it’s causes, treatments and what the consequences are if it’s not kept under control. In addition, younger people can have it too. I’ll explain why it may happen.

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What Is Isolated Systolic Hypertension

The systolic blood pressure number is the upper number of your blood pressure reading. This number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats pumping blood out.

If blood pressure is 120/80, commonly referred to as 120 over 80, it means a systolic blood pressure of 120 mm Hg 1.

By the way, did you know that 120 over 80 is not considered normal blood pressure anymore? If you’re interested, I wrote a whole article about it here, Normal Blood Pressure – Surprisingly It’s Not 120 Over 80.

What does systolic hypertension mean? Systolic hypertension is when systolic blood pressure is consistently high and diastolic blood pressure is normal. Systolic pressure 130 mm Hg or higher and diastolic pressure is less than 80 mmHg.

Traditionally, a systolic 140 mmHg or higher was classified as systolic hypertension but the new BP guidelines in 2017 lowered high blood pressure from 140 to 130 mmHg 2.

This reading would place blood pressure into the high blood pressure stage 1 category. If the systolic blood pressure is 140 mmHg or higher with diastolic pressure less than 80, this places the isolated systolic hypertension into the category of High Blood Pressure Stage 2 3.

If the systolic blood pressure was over 180 mmHg, it would be in the hypertensive crisis category. A blood pressure reading this high requires you to either call your doctor immediately or 911 depending on the symptoms 4.

Find out those symptoms and learn more about hypertensive crisis in my article, Hypertensive Crisis – You’re Calling 911 or a Doctor.

Isolated Systolic Hypertension In The Elderly

Isolated systolic hypertension is the most common form of high blood pressure in the elderly. For this reason, it’s common to wonder, what is the primary cause of systolic hypertension in older adults?

The common cause of systolic hypertension in older adults is the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term plaque buildup and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular diseases.

Doctors tend to watch the systolic blood pressure number in people ages 50 and over more closely as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

A recent study examined persons who reached age 65. They had a 90% lifetime risk of developing high blood pressure, particularly isolated systolic hypertension, if they lived another 20 to 25 years 5.

With a rapidly aging population the prevalence of high blood pressure, particularly isolated systolic hypertension, is expected to increase substantially. This is a rapidly growing concern and is a challenge healthcare providers experience every day.

Isolated systolic hypertension is just one of over ten topics discussed in my article about the BP chart. Learn more about all the BP categories and print out my free BP chart by visiting the article here, What Is The Blood Pressure Chart? All Five BP Categories.

Isolated Systolic Hypertension In Young Adults

While primarily seen in the elderly, isolated systolic hypertension can affect the young also. What is isolated systolic hypertension in young adults?

Isolated systolic hypertension in young adults is when systolic blood pressure is consistently higher and diastolic pressure is normal.

The following are causes of isolated systolic in young adults:

  • Young adults may consume more sodium, saturated fats and fast food.
  • Some young athletes take anabolic steroids for increased performance.
  • Some hypertension risk factors affect all ages including young adults.

A young adult can slip through the cracks for prevention and receiving a proper diagnosis. This can happen for the following reasons:

  • Younger people often skip regular physicals.
  • Younger people are often viewed as free of diseases, particularly high blood pressure.
  • High BP, particularly isolated systolic hypertension is often regarded as an anomaly that will go away.

A study from the University Of Texas Southwestern Medical Center represents the most comprehensive study for isolated systolic hypertension in young adults 6.

They concluded young people with this condition was at risk for future artery stiffening. This is linked to an increased risk of stroke and damage to the kidney and brain.

In addition, the University found younger people with this condition may have an abnormally stiff aorta and need to follow up with their primary care physicians.

Isolated Systolic Hypertension During Pregnancy

High blood pressure, including isolated systolic hypertension poses various risks during pregnancy including:

  • Placental abruption: This is when the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before delivery.
  • Decreased blood flow to the placenta: This can lead to low birth weight or premature birth.
  • Premature delivery: To prevent potentially life threatening complications sometimes an early delivery is needed.
  • Intrauterine growth restriction: High blood pressure might result in decreased or slowed growth of the baby.
  • Future cardiovascular disease: Having preeclampsia can increase the risk of future heart and blood vessel disease.

In 2007, a study of 3,470 pregnant participants showed that 26% had isolated systolic hypertension. In addition, found a first delivery at an earlier age increased the risk of isolated systolic hypertension 7.

Isolated Systolic Hypertension Causes

What are the causes of isolated systolic hypertension? The following are 8 causes of isolated systolic hypertension:

  1. Age
  2. Plaque buildup.
  3. Artery stiffness.
  4. Hyperthyroidism: When the thyroid produces too much thyroid hormone, high blood pressure can result. In addition, if the glands secrete too much parathyroid hormone, the amount of calcium in the blood rises, which triggers a sudden rise in blood pressure.
  5. Kidney Disease: Improperly working kidneys can cause fluid retention which causes an increase in blood pressure.
  6. Diabetes: Most people with diabetes will eventually have high blood pressure. Diabetes damages the arteries and makes them targets for hardening which increases the risk of isolated systolic hypertension.
  7. Heart valve problems: Improperly operating valves makes the heart work harder and stress the blood vessels.
  8. Anemia: The heart has to work harder to deliver sufficient oxygen to the organs which can cause damage to the blood vessels.

Consequences Of Isolated Systolic Hypertension

For young adults or those in their 50s, it’s important to monitor and treat blood pressure. Isolated systolic hypertension can cause the following:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Vision loss
  • Aneurysm

Recent studies examined people aged from 40 to 89. They found for every 20 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles 8.

Ischemic heart disease, also called coronary heart disease, is caused when the narrowed arteries in the heart receive less blood and oxygen which can lead to a heart attack.

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Isolated Systolic Hypertension Treatments

Isolated Systolic Hypertension Medications

If systolic blood pressure is high, a physician may prescribe medicine to help bring it down. The following are common blood pressure medications:

  • Diuretics
  • Beta-blockers
  • Ace inhibitors
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Angiotensin ll receptor blockers
  • Alpha blockers
  • Alpha-2 receptor agonists

Every so often a doctor will prescribe a combination of 2 or more medications to help lower your blood pressure 9.

Evidence from individual and combination-therapy trials suggest patients who require more than one medication, a combination of calcium channel blockers and thiazide-like diuretics should be the initial strategy for treatment.

If you don’t have a doctor or a health plan that’s affordable and right for you, you may want to check out my recommendation on a health plan service. You can check out their website here, eHealth Insurance.

Natural Treatments

Whether a doctor will recommend medications or not, lifestyle changes will always be advised 10. The following are the common lifestyle changes 11 and habits that should be followed to help lower isolated systolic hypertension:

Relaxation Techniques

Try these proven methods to help lower blood pressure:

  • Pressure points like the spirit gate.
  • Breathing exercises like morning breathing.
  • Targeted self-massages
  • Meditation
  • Warm healing baths


Include these foods daily:

  • Skinless chicken & fish: The best fish are wild caught.
  • Fruits like avocados, apples and kiwi.
  • Vegetables like broccoli, asparagus, spinach and sweet potatoes.
  • Nuts like almonds, pecans and walnuts.
  • Whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal.


Magnesium causes a calming effect on the body including arteries and veins which will help prevent them from constricting.

The Top 5 Foods High In Magnesium:

  1. Spinach
  2. Swiss chard
  3. Dark chocolate
  4. Pumpkin seeds
  5. Almonds

Potassium and Sodium

Try maintaining the potassium to sodium ratio of 4:1. The daily recommended amounts are approximately 1,500 mg of sodium (unless you’re an athlete or have an occupation where you’re sweating all day) and 4,700 mg of potassium 12.

This ratio helps manage blood pressure by controlling the amount of fluid stored in the body. Foods High In Potassium:

  1. Sweet potatoes
  2. Leafy greens
  3. Dried apricots
  4. Beans
  5. Bananas

Physical Activity

By deciding to improve your lifestyle and taking charge of your fitness may be one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. The choice is yours! Enjoy about 20-30 minutes of regular physical activity every day.

Physical Activities Can Include:

  • Walks
  • Yoga
  • Jogging
  • High or low intensity cardio

Related Questions

Can stress cause isolated systolic hypertension? Stress can cause isolated systolic hypertension by releasing hormones and activating the sympathetic nervous system. This increases the heart rate and constricts blood vessels increasing blood pressure.

Read Next – More BP Category Articles!

High Diastolic Blood Pressure Meaning

What The Numbers In A Blood Pressure Reading Mean

Systolic Blood Pressure

Diastolic Blood Pressure


Article Resources: Blood Pressure Explained follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. American Heart Association: Understanding Blood Pressure Readings[]
  2. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Systolic Hypertension[]
  3. American College of Cardiology: New ACC/AHA High Blood Pressure guidelines Lower Definition of Hypertension[]
  4. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Hypertensive Crisis[]
  5. The American Journal of Medicine: Isolated Systolic Hypertension: An Update After Sprint[]
  6. UT Southwestern Medical Center: Hypertension in young adults shows long-term heart risks[]
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Pregnancy-related factors and the risk of isolated systolic hypertension[]
  8. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Isolated systolic hypertension: pathophysiology, consequences and therapeutic benefits[]
  9. The American Journal of Medicine: Isolated Systolic Hypertension: An Update After Sprint[]
  10. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Effects of Baths on Blood Pressure[]
  11. CDC: High Blood Pressure[]
  12. National Center for Biotechnology Information: Sodium-to-Potassium Ratio and Blood Pressure, Hypertension, and Related Factors[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on blood pressure topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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