Systole Too High - Is It Dangerous?
Systole is the ejection phase of the heart, i.e. the phase in which the blood flows from the heart into the main artery (aorta) and thus the body is pumped.
If the systole is "too high", one speaks of the systolic blood pressure value, which is elevated. This is the higher of the two values (1st value) that are measured when measuring blood pressure.
If a patient has high blood pressure (hypertension), often only the systole is too high, while the diastole (Blood pressure value of the filling phase) is normal or only slightly increased. If only the systole is too high, one often speaks of age hypertension, which from a certain age on is called "normal“, But not physiologically, applies. The diastole, on the other hand, often decreases with age.
In our following article you will learn how dangerous an elevated systolic blood pressure value actually is and what causes it may be.
Is Elevated Systole Dangerous?
- A permanent increase in the systolic blood pressure value within the framework of the usual high blood pressure, which is unfortunately now to be regarded as a widespread disease, is a serious disease, but does not represent an acute risk. However, a chronically elevated blood pressure can cause dangerous complications. For example, the risk of a heart attack, stroke or cerebral haemorrhage increases significantly.
- A sudden increase in systolic high blood pressure to values up to over 200 mmHg is called a high blood pressure crisis or blood pressure derailment. This situation can lead to acute organ damage that is life-threatening. Its an emergency. In the context of a blood pressure crisis, for example, cardiac arrhythmias, cerebral haemorrhages or acute kidney failure can occur.
Causes of too high a systole
There are several reasons why the systole can be too high. As already mentioned, the systole represents the ejection phase of the heart. In this phase, oxygen-rich blood is drawn from the left ventricle (chamber) of the heart into the main artery (aorta) pumped. From the aorta, the blood can then reach all organs and every other area of the body via various arterial branches and thus supply it with oxygen.
The causes of excessive systole are often due to the resistance in the aorta being very high. As a result, the heart has to exert a great deal of force in order to pump the blood from the heart into the aorta. This great effort then leads to increased blood pressure, in this case too high a systole.
A distinction is made between primary and secondary hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Primary high blood pressure: One speaks of primary hypertension when the cause of the excessive systole is largely unknown. This is very common in adults, and even more common in overweight (obese) Patients who do not exercise, eat unhealthily, smoke or consume excessive amounts of alcohol.
- Secondary high blood pressure: Children or slim young adults are more likely to develop secondary hypertension, which makes the systole appear too high. The possible causes of secondary hypertension and thus too high a systole are very diverse:
- Renal hypertension
- Age hypertension
- Stress / anxiety
- Cushing's Syndrome
- Brain tumor
On the one hand, there may be an overactive thyroid gland (Hyperthyroidism). The thyroid produces hormones that make us awake and active and get the circulation going. If a patient produces too many thyroid hormones due to the overactive function, this can be the cause of too high a systole.
Another cause of excessive systole can be a kidney disorder. In this case, one often speaks of the so-called renal hypertension, in which too many hormones, such as renin, are produced. This leads to a narrowing of the blood vessels.This leads to increased resistance in the vessels, which means that the blood has to be pumped through the vessels with greater force. This increases the systole as the heart has to use more force to push the blood into the aorta.
In contrast, diastole is usually normal in renal hypertension.
A disease in which the systole is too high and the diastole too low is so-called high blood pressure in old age. This phenomenon is particularly common in old age. This is related to the fact that the blood vessels become increasingly stiff and inelastic with age. The heart therefore has to exert an enormous amount of force in order to pump the blood out of the heart into the stiff vessels, which increases the systole. At the same time, there is less blood flowing to the heart, which leads to a lowering of diastole.
So if a patient suffers from a systole that is too high while the diastole is too low, it is most likely what is known as old age hypertension.
Stress / anxiety
Psychological processes can also have an impact on blood pressure. Anger, stress and fear in particular cause blood pressure to rise rapidly due to the release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. Continuous stress leads to a permanently increased hormone level and the hormones are no longer broken down. This keeps the systolic blood pressure high.
Other causes of increased systole
Other causes can be:
- Hyperaldosteronism: Here, for example, damage to the adrenal cortex increases the release of aldosterone. Aldosterone is a hormone that is responsible for the reabsorption of sodium and water in the kidneys, which increases blood pressure. If it is poured out more, the blood pressure remains permanently elevated.
- Acromegaly: A tumor in the pituitary gland can lead to increased secretion of growth hormones. In addition to excessive growth, these lead to a reduced excretion of water and sodium. As a result, the blood volume increases and the blood pressure rises.
- Cushing's syndrome: The consequence of this syndrome is the increased production of the stress hormone cortisol. This also increases blood pressure.
A pheochromocytoma (tumor of the adrenal medulla) or a brain tumor can also be causes of high blood pressure in rare cases.
Causes of too high a systole with too low a diastole
In the clinical picture of isolated systolic hypertension, there is a relatively high systolic blood pressure value and a relatively low diastolic blood pressure value (e.g. 160/50 mmHg). The blood pressure amplitude increases to a pathological level. There are two main causes of this isolated systolic hypertension. Both can be assigned to the arterial system of the cardiovascular system. On the one hand, this can be caused by a disorder in the aortic valve (such as an aortic valve stenosis). On the other hand, advanced arteriosclerosis (plaque-like deposits of blood lipids in the vessel wall) of the arterial blood vessels also causes isolated systolic hypertension. As a result of arteriosclerosis, the arterial vessels lose their elasticity and “stiffen”. It is no longer possible to react dampening the pressure pulse of the heart and the heart must consequently build up higher pressure values in order to supply the periphery with oxygenated blood. In old age, however, a certain increase in the systolic blood pressure value combined with a slight decrease in the diastolic blood pressure value is completely normal.
Symptoms of high systole
A systole that is too high is usually noticeable quite late on the basis of symptoms. However, depending on the cause that leads to an excessively high systole, accompanying symptoms may occur. Especially in primary hypertension, in which the systole is increased without an existing disease, it is often difficult to identify typical symptoms.
- primary hypertension: racing heart, sweating, restlessness, general excitement, decreased performance
Secondary hypertension is usually easier to recognize because there are specific accompanying symptoms:
- Overactive thyroid: racing heart, excessive sweating, restlessness, hyperactivity and weight loss despite being very hungry and eating a lot
- Renal hypertension: systole too high, normal or only slightly increased diastole, otherwise specific symptoms are absent
- Hyperaldosteronism: increased thirst, hypokalaemia (too low potassium levels), blood pH too acidic (metabolic acidosis)
- Acromegaly: long extremities
- Cushing's syndrome: full moon face, trunk obesity, muscle weakness, thin skin, depression
- Pheochromocytoma: suddenly racing, rapidly pounding heart for a few seconds / minutes
It can therefore be said in general that too high a systole is a symptom of many diseases and therefore the accompanying symptoms as well as the age and appearance (diet, lifestyle) of the patient must be taken into account.
A simple blood pressure monitor is usually sufficient to diagnose a systole that is too high. The physiological value should be between 115-130mmHg.
There are automatic measuring devices for everyday use.
If the systolic blood pressure is elevated, there are various treatment options:
- Healthy lifestyle: Smoking, alcohol, and excessive meat consumption can damage the blood vessels, leading to excessive systole. Particularly in primary hypertension, where the exact cause of the disease is unclear, the patient should try to actively counteract the excessive systole through a healthy lifestyle. Endurance sports, a healthy diet and the conscious avoidance of stressful situations can often help many patients to get their systole too high under control.
- Beta-blockers: If a change in lifestyle is not enough to change the excessively high systole, there are medications available, but these should be used as the last resort of choice. Beta blockers, as the name suggests, block the beta receptors on the heart. This means that the heart no longer pumps as strongly and thus cannot cause a systole that is too high.
- Diuretics: These dehydrate the body and thus reduce the blood volume. This avoids excessive stress on the heart from excessive blood volume.
- ACE inhibitors: These are drugs that ensure that a system is inhibited by various hormones. By inhibiting this system, the blood pressure is automatically regulated down, which results in the systole being lowered.
- Calcium channel blockers: These block the calcium channels in the heart and thus ensure that the heart beats with less effort.
Since all drugs are fraught with severe side effects, a patient should first try to improve their lifestyle before resorting to drug therapy.
If the excessive systole is caused by an existing disease, such as an overactive thyroid, this disease must first be treated. Most of the time, the excessive systole disappears as a result.
Read more about the topic here: How can I lower the systole?
Home remedies for increased systole
In the case of isolated systolic hypertension, it is particularly important to lower the systolic value, as this overstresses the vascular walls in the long term due to the increased pressure. Various home remedies for lowering blood pressure have proven themselves. Generous physical exercise, such as Nordic walking, jogging or swimming, is particularly effective. This can reduce the systolic value by about 5 to 10 mmHg. A balanced diet is also very important. Care should be taken to ensure that there is a low intake of salt, as this can lead to an isolated increase in systolic blood pressure (less than 6 grams per day). When preparing meals, medical professionals recommend that herbs be used liberally. Fresh onions, celery and garlic are also said to have an antihypertensive effect. Traditional Kneipp treatments can also be carried out.
Homeopathy with increased systole
Certain homeopathic substances can lower blood pressure. Remedies such as Adonis Vernalis, the Indian hemp Apocynum, Aranin (medicinal properties of the black night spider) or the Arnica Montanum can be used. The latter in particular is part of the traditional standard therapy for high blood pressure.