Widened pulse pressure may increase the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. Pulse pressure is the difference between your two blood pressure readings – systolic and diastolic. Systolic pressure, the top number, is the pressure with which your blood is forced from the heart to reach other organs. Diastolic pressure, the bottom number, is the pressure between heart beats within the arteries.
To calculate pulse pressure, you must subtract your diastolic pressure reading from your systolic pressure reading.
For example, in a healthy blood pressure of 120 over 80, the pulse pressure is 40 (120 – 80).
What is widened pulse pressure?
Pulse pressure readings over 40 indicate widened pulse pressure, and if your pulse pressure reading is over 60 that means you are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease and heart attack.
To understand what widened pulse pressure is, it is required to know first what is pulse pressure. Pulse pressure is the difference between the systolic and diastolic pressure readings measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). This measurement is the force the heart generates each time it contracts. For example, if your resting blood pressure was 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, your pulse pressure will be 40 mmHg.
What causes widened pulse pressure?
There are many different causes for widened pulse pressure ranging in severity. For starters, physical activity will result in widened pulse pressure, but that does not mean you have a higher risk for heart disease as this is a temporary change as your heart pumps out more blood as needed.
On the other hand, other causes of widened pulse pressure are more dangerous as they contribute to a chronic widened pulse pressure, which means your heart is constantly under stress. Chronic widened pulse pressure can be an indicator of a future heart attack or cardiovascular disease.
Widened pulse pressure is mainly due to a physiologic response to fever, weather, exercise, or pregnancy. It can also be the result of certain neurological disorders such as suffering from increased intracranial pressure (ICP). Acute aortic insufficiency can widen pulse pressure, causing the aortic health valve to deteriorate and a bounding pulse and an atrial or ventricular gallop to develop. Atherosclerosis is another cause that can reduce arterial compliance, permanently widening pulse pressure if not treated.
Previous studies have shown that pulse pressure is a predictor of fluid responsiveness in patients with sepsis. Sepsis is a life-threatening condition that manifests as a response to infection causing injury to its own tissues and organs. Sepsis is one of the leading causes of death in the United States and the most common cause of death among critically ill patients in non-coronary intensive care units.
Blood pressure variations affecting pulse pressure
- Experiencing hypovolemia (low blood volume) will widen pulse pressure
- Experiencing bradycardia (decreased heart rate) will widen pulse pressure
- Experiencing arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) may cause a widened pulse pressure
- Aortic dissection
- Heart block
- Chronic aortic regurgitation
- Raised intracranial pressure
Also read: Ventricular arrhythmia: Meaning, types, causes, treatment, and complications
Home remedies to manage pulse pressure
By adhering to a moderate intensity exercise regimen on a routine basis, you can now only prevent widened pulse pressure but also help maintain normal blood pressure ranges. Regular exercise may help rescue pulse pressure up to 10mmHg.
Shedding excess pounds can help lower blood pressure, as a result, lower pulse pressure.
Sticking to a healthy, well-balanced diet not only helps you maintain a normal weight, but can also help lower a widened pulse pressure.
This vitamin possesses antagonizing actions against angiotensin converting enzyme, which can be responsible for a widened pulse pressure. Taking vitamin D can usually lower pulse pressure by up to 5mmHg.
Deficiencies in this mineral are likely to result in elevations of pulse and systolic blood pressure. By making sure you are getting adequate amounts in your diet or supplementation with more readily absorbed forms of the mineral (magnesium malate and magnesium glycinate), it may help you reduce pulse pressure by up 5 to 10mmHg.
Treatment of widened pulse pressure
By keeping your blood pressure under control, you will also help keep pulse pressure within normal range as well. However, controlling blood pressure may not be as easy a task as it is often outlined. This is where the utilization of anti-hypertensive medication may help.
- Thiazide diuretics: Help promote the elimination of sodium and water from the body, reducing blood volume and subsequently blood pressure.
- Beta-blockers: Act directly on the heart, slowing heart rate and promoting vasodilation.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: Inhibit the enzyme angiotensin, which normally causes vasoconstriction and high blood pressure.
- Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs): Similar to ACE inhibitors but work directly on the receptor instead.
- Calcium channel blockers: Target the muscles of the blood vessels, helping to lower blood pressure by relaxing them.
- Renin inhibitors: These drugs work by inhibiting a hormone renin which plays an important role in the regulation of blood pressure.
- Vasodilators: Act on muscles of arteries allowing them to dilate to promote blood flow
Related: Heart rate vs. pulse: Are they the same or different?