Doctors should rethink blood pressure test, study says

June 17, 2008 2:32:02 PM PDT
Doctors might want to rethink the importance of blood pressure readings. A new study finds, in certain people, one number is actually more important than the other. That's at least true for patients over the age of 50. The British study in the journal Lancet suggests doctors tracking hypertension in older patients may only need to monitor systolic blood pressure and ignore diastolic blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a reading. It's the pressure exerted at the beginning of the hearts pumping cycle. Diastolic, the bottom number, measures the heart's resting cycle.

Researchers say as the population ages a rise in systolic pressure is resulting in what's called systolic hypertension. That's why they believe using a systolic blood pressure after 50 would simplify treatments for doctors and get patients to focus on a single number and realize that number needs to be lowered.