Pulse Pressure: The Complete Breakdown
In a nutshell, pulse pressure is simply the difference between the systolic and diastolic pressure readings that make up your blood pressure. The systolic value is the higher number, which records the amount of pressure in the arteries during the contraction phase of a heart beat. The diastolic value is the lower number, which records the amount of pressure in the arteries during the relaxation phase of a heart beat.
Don’t get pulse pressure confused with mean arterial pressure, which is the average blood pressure in the arteries throughout the cardiac cycle. Knowing your pulse pressure gives you more knowledge about your heart’s status quo, which will allow you to take the necessary precautions to ensure that your blood pressure levels don’t rise to abysmal heights.
Pulse pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). A healthy blood pressure of 120/80 would have a pulse pressure of 40. A hypertensive blood pressure of 140/90 gives you a pulse pressure of 50 and a critically high blood pressure of 180/110 gives you a pulse pressure of 70.
You may be thinking that the smaller your pulse pressure is, the healthier your heart will be. Though such a cookie-cutter apothegm sounds nice, it isn’t necessarily accurate when we look at individuals with dangerously low blood pressures (hypotension). A hypotensive blood pressure of 75/55 will result in a pulse pressure of 20, which is half of the healthy blood pressure of 120/80.
A number of studies have shown that pulse pressure offers value when looking at a patient’s overall risk profile. Several studies have identified that a high pulse pressure can cause more artery damage compared to high blood pressure with normal pulse pressure, as well as indicating elevated stress on the left ventricle of the heart .
How to improve your pulse pressure
One of the best ways to improve your pulse pressure is by cleaning up your diet. Under no circumstances does this mean that you should starve yourself cadaverously, but instead you should cut out or limit foods that are counterproductive to your goal of improving your overall heart health. Such foods will most likely include those that are very high in sodium. To help make your foods taste good, instead of adding salt, try adding a salt-free seasoning like Mrs. Dash. There are a plethora of different varieties that allow you to season virtually any dish without adding salt.
Also, make sure to look at the labels of any foods you consume. You may be surprised to see how many different foods have very large amounts of sodium in them whether to enhance flavor or to prolong shelf life. You can indefinitely expect to see some significant improvements in your pulse pressure and overall heart health by adopting some of these tips.
Physical activity not only helps to control high blood pressure (hypertension), it also helps you manage your weight, strengthen your heart, and lower your stress level . If this wasn’t already enough, exercise will also aid in lowering your cholesterol levels. Cardiovascular (aerobic) exercise is one of the best modes of exercise that you can engage in to help you improve your heart health.
There are actually a ton of heart healthy exercise methods that you can choose from. Basically, any type of exercise that puts a significant demand on the cardiovascular system is best. You can try walking, hiking, jogging, swimming, biking, ice skating, high intensity interval training, and much more! This is not to say that resistance training is not effective at lowering blood pressure and improving pulse pressure, because it definitely helps, but if you can only choose one type of exercise method, then opting for aerobic exercise is probably your best bet.
Pulse pressure summary
Pulse pressure is the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure. It can be used as an indication of how healthy your heart is. However, having a low pulse pressure is not necessarily intimation of a healthy heart as individuals who are hypotensive fall under this category. Pulse pressure is not the absolute best way to measure heart health, however it can be helpful by putting things into perspective.
You can help to improve your pulse pressure by cutting back on sodium. You can simply try using sodium-free seasonings like Mrs. Dash on your meals to help make them taste great without adding any salt at all. You can also opt for doing cardiovascular exercise to add even more blood pressure lowering benefits to your arsenal.
All in all, pulse pressure is a very useful way to help give you more information about your heart’s status quo by having you look at your blood pressure in a different light. Also, make sure that you talk to your doctor first before you make any significant lifestyle changes to ensure that you meet your goals timely and safely.
1. Weber, Craig. “Why is Pulse Pressure Important?” Very Well. March 2017. https://www.verywell.com/pulse-pressure-1763964. Accessed on Aug 2017.
2. “Getting Active to Control High Blood Pressure”. Heart. Jan 2017. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/MakeChangesThatMatter/Getting-Active-to-Control-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301882_Article.jsp#.WZjgFFGGNPY. Accessed on Aug 2017.