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What is pulse pressure?

When a blood pressure reading is taken the measurement includes a systolic and diastolic reading. These 2 readings are the person’s highest and lowest levels of the cardiac cycle (one heart beat). The difference between these 2 readings is called the pulse pressure. The pulse pressure is the force that your heart generates at each contraction.

How is it calculated?

Pulse pressure is the systolic reading minus the diastolic reading. Most home monitoring blood pressure devices display pulse pressure.

For example; if a person’s systolic blood pressure was 125 mmHg and their diastolic pressure was 85 mmHg, the pulse pressure would be 40 mmHg.

What is normal pulse pressure?

Usually, the resting pulse pressure in healthy adults is about 40 mmHg. A pulse pressure of between 30-49 mmHg is considered to be normal.

Is Pulse Pressure Important?

Evidence suggests that pulse pressure in conjunction with systolic and diastolic blood pressure is an indicator of cardiovascular risk. However, a person with a normal pulse pressure of say, 40 may not necessarily have normal blood pressure levels.

For example compare the 2 readings below;

  • 1. Systolic pressure = 120, diastolic pressure = 80, pulse pressure = 120-80 = 40
  • 2. Systolic pressure = 140, diastolic pressure = 100, pulse pressure = 140-100 = 40

A blood pressure of 140/100 mmHg is very different than 120/80 mmHg. These readings show that pulse pressure alone can’t be used for medical treatment decisions.

Why take Pulse Pressure readings?

Recent studies have shown that pulse pressure readings contribute to a patient’s overall cardiovascular risk profile. Studies include:

  • 1. Conclusion, “Cardiovascular disease risk assessment was improved by considering both systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure, not just systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure or pulse pressure separately. “Pulse Pressure and Cardiovascular Disease-Related Mortality” JAMA. 2002;287:2677-2683 May 22 2002
  • 2. Conclusion, “Pulse pressure has also been observed to be a significant and independent indicator of myocardial infarction. Furthermore, compelling evidence has emerged that PP is a strong indicator of cardiovascular risk even among normotensive individuals.” “Pulse pressure and cardiovascular risk” Journal of Hypertension 1999 Dec;17(5):S21-4

3 Responses to “My Blood Pressure Software – pulse pressure”

  1. brian says:

    Someone could have a high systolic bp say 170 and also high diastolic say 120 so their pp is 50.Someone else could have low bp, say 115/65 so pp is 50.So does this not show that pp in itself is totally useless and is probably only relevant in hypertension levels.

    • Esofia says:

      No, it can still be useful. I probably have POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome), and my pulse pressure is all over the place. Sometimes it’s 65, sometimes it’s been as low as 12. It fluctuates wildly after I stand up, and it’s a key sign along with a large increase in heart rate, especially when it drops down into the teens.

      I admit that pulse pressure is not the most helpful of the readings available, though. It’s more of a secondary thing.

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About Kellie

Kellie is 37 years old and together with her brother Steve makes up the My Health Software team.

She helps on the websites and gathering news for the programs. Kellie worked in the medical industry prior to having her two children (8 and 6) and has a strong interest in self awareness and management of health conditions.