what does it mean when the diastolic number is high?
A high diastolic pressure is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular problems.

Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood column against the walls of arteries, which function to carry blood to different parts of the body.

Blood pressure is measured in the following two variables:

  1. Systolic (the number on top): The pressure produced when the heart pumps blood all through the body.
  2. Diastolic (the number at the base): The pressure produced when the heart relaxes and refills with blood.

Hypertension is when both systolic and diastolic blood pressures are raised. However, high diastolic blood pressure or isolated diastolic hypertension (IDH) happens when the systolic pulse is in the normal range and only the diastolic blood pressure is elevated (over 80 mmHg). 

High diastolic pressure is associated with an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular problems.

What complications are associated with high diastolic blood pressure?

A high diastolic measure (equal to or more than 120 mmHg) is connected to a higher risk of damage involving the large artery called the aorta that carries blood and oxygen from the heart to other body parts.

People with a raised diastolic reading are prone to aortic aneurysms of the stomach. A stomach aortic aneurysm is an overstretched, weakened section in the body's main artery that may rupture and cause death.

What causes high diastolic blood pressure?

In the vast majority with isolated diastolic hypertension (IDH), no specific cause has been identified. Some possible reasons for IDH are:

  • Primary hypertension
    • Here the blood pressure is raised because small arteries, called arterioles, in the body are narrower than normal.
    • This compresses the blood moving through the arterioles with greater force, thus bringing up the pressure.
  • Endocrine and kidney conditions
    • Hypothyroidism is one of the common causes of IDH. The raised diastolic pressure is the consequence of excessive arteriolar narrowing.
    • Endocrine diseases producing significant degrees of aldosterone, parathyroid hormone, or corticosteroids can cause IDH.
    • A damaged kidney can prompt IDH by decreasing the capacity of the kidneys to remove fluids out of the body or by increasing the production of angiotensin. 
    • Renovascular hypertension, because of narrowing of the principal artery leading to the kidneys, is another cause of IDH.
  • Sleep apnea
    • Sleep apnea is the episodic pauses in breathing during sleep. This may lead to IDH due to the excessive arteriolar narrowing and decreased fluid excretion by the kidneys.
  • Some other possible causes of IDH

How is high diastolic blood pressure treated?

Whatever the cause may be, isolated diastolic hypertension (IDH) should not be ignored because the systolic pressure will also elevate over time.

IDH can be managed with some simple lifestyle changes, dietary enhancements, and medications.

A few ways that aid in lowering IDH are:

  • Reduce sodium in the diet: Sodium can increase blood pressure, so limiting sodium consumption can prevent IDH.
  • Get more potassium: Potassium can counteract the effects sodium has on blood pressure. So, potassium utilization can help decrease IDH.
  • Avoid caffeine: Caffeine acts as a stimulant that can raise blood pressure.
  • Cut back on alcohol: Drinking liquor can raise blood pressure. Thus, avoiding alcohol can help prevent and treat IDH.
  • Stop smoking: The nicotine in cigarettes is a stimulant that can raise blood pressure. It can likewise prompt injury of the walls of arteries. Thus, avoiding smoking can help bring down IDH.
  • Dietary supplements: They might help lower blood pressure.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/16/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

American Heart Association. Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings

Science Direct. Diastolic Blood Pressure. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/diastolic-blood-pressure