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Hypertension. 1997 Oct;30(4):809-16.

Diastolic pressure underestimates age-related hemodynamic impairment.

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  • 1Servicio de Clínica Médica, Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires, Argentina.


It has been hypothesized that as large arteries become more rigid with age, the pattern of hypertension changes from diastolic to systolic. Thus, diastolic blood pressure (DBP) may lose its ability to reflect the increase in vascular resistance with age. To assess this, we studied the age-related changes in blood pressure pattern and its steady-state and pulsatile determinants. We performed an epidemiological analysis based on a national survey of 10,462 subjects from Argentina. A hemodynamic analysis (impedance cardiography) was then carried out in 636 consecutive hypertensive patients (age, 25 to 74 years). Whereas the rate of increment in the prevalence of mild to moderate hypertension (MMH) reached a plateau after the sixth decade, isolated and borderline systolic forms of hypertension began a steep and sustained rise. Among patients with MMH, DBP remained stable from the third to the seventh decade, whereas SBP maintained a sustained increase. Despite similar DBP, the systemic vascular resistance index increased 47% (P<.01) and the cardiac index decreased 27% (P<.01), whereas the ratio of stroke volume to pulse pressure, an index of arterial compliance, decreased 45% (P<.01). However, there were no significant differences between older patients with MMH and those with isolated systolic hypertension in the level of SBP, vascular resistance, stroke volume, and cardiac index. Compared with age-matched normotensive control subjects, the ratio of stroke volume to pulse pressure was much more reduced in isolated systolic hypertension (48%) than in MMH (30%). In summary, the present study, carried out in a large sample of hypertensive subjects with a wide age range, showed a simultaneous impairment in vascular resistance and arterial compliance associated with aging in different patterns of hypertension. The magnitude of these changes, with opposite effects on DBP but additive effects on SBP, suggests that a hemodynamic mechanism could determine the transition in the prevalence of diastolic hypertension toward a systolic pattern of hypertension with aging. Also, the results suggest that SBP, but not DBP, is a reliable indicator of the underlying hemodynamic abnormalities (high resistance and low arterial compliance) in the elderly.

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