Recent Blog Articles
Can blue light-blocking glasses improve your sleep?
Skills children need to succeed in life — and getting youngsters started
Thinking about COVID booster shots? Here’s what to know
Cancer survivors' sleep is affected long after treatment
Do I have to yell so much?
What to do when elective surgery is postponed
What happened to trusting medical experts?
Stuttering in children: How parents can help
Icy fingers and toes: Poor circulation or Raynaud’s phenomenon?
Evoking calm: Practicing mindfulness in daily life helps
Heart Beat: High pulse pressure poses risk for atrial fibrillation
High pulse pressure poses risk for atrial fibrillation
Arteries, like knuckles and knees, can stiffen with age. When this happens, the heart must contract a bit more forcefully with each beat to circulate blood. This extra work can lead to changes in the size and shape of the muscular lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles, much as lifting weights can do to the arms. If the remodeling also affects the upper chambers, the atria, it can throw off the electrical pathways that generate the "contract now" signals that precede each heartbeat.
One measure of arterial stiffness is pulse pressure â€” the difference between systolic pressure (the top number of a blood pressure reading) and diastolic pressure (the bottom number). Pulse pressures under 40 are normal; the larger they are above that, the more worrisome. Systolic pressure reflects the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts; diastolic pressure, when the heart relaxes.
To continue reading this article, you must log in.
Subscribe to Harvard Health Online for immediate access to health news and information from Harvard Medical School.
- Research health conditions
- Check your symptoms
- Prepare for a doctor's visit or test
- Find the best treatments and procedures for you
- Explore options for better nutrition and exercise
I'd like to receive access to Harvard Health Online for only $4.99 a month.Sign Me Up
Already a member? Login ».
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Free Healthbeat Signup
Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!