Every time your heart contracts and shrinks, a force is exerted and this can be measured by what we call the pulse pressure. The measurement is calculated by working out two readings – systolic and diastolic in millimeters of mercury or mmHg.
Systolic is the pressure of the heart forcing the blood from the main organ to the other parts of the body.
Diastolic is the pressure between pumps or heartbeats within the arteries.
What is Normal Pulse Pressure?
If your blood pressure is (for example) 120 over 80 – 120/80 – your pulse pressure would be 40, the difference between the systolic and diastolic readings. This is considered to be a ‘normal’ pulse pressure.
If you have a pulse pressure higher than 40, meaning the difference between the two readings is greater than 40 (140/90 for example), you have wide or widened pulse pressure. If the figure is greater than 60, you are at risk of developing disease of the cardiovascular system (160/90)
You will have widened pulse pressure if your diastolic pressure drops, your systolic pressure rises, or a combination of the two occurs. These can occur because of many different reasons.
What Causes Widened Pulse Pressure?
In certain situations, widened pulse pressure is perfectly normal and just one of these occasions is right after you exercise.
When you perform any physical activity, your body is put under more stress with the heart working harder to pump more blood around the body faster. Muscles need more oxygen in order to stretch and retract and to get more oxygen and other vital nutrients, they need the blood to be pumped there, rich with oxygen.
For around ten minutes after exercising, you can expect to have a widened pulse pressure.
Your pulse pressure is an indicator as to how healthy you are and the wider the gap between the two pressure readings, the higher the chances that there is something wrong. This is definitely the case if the symptoms persist for longer than 10-30 minutes after exercise or when you’re doing nothing at all in the way of physical activity.
If you are older, a widened pulse pressure can be more dangerous than when you are younger but in any age range, a pulse pressure over 40 is seen as abnormal.
A higher pulse pressure figure could be a symptom / sign of valve regurgitation, something that occurs when the valves of the heart leaks. When there is a leak, there is less pressure and the blood doesn’t pump around the body with as much force as it should do.
Another reason why your pulse pressure might be elevated is because of stiffness of the largest artery of the body, the aorta, and in turn, this can happen because of many reasons, more commonly high blood pressure or atherosclerosis, where the arteries are covered with fatty deposits. The wider your pulse pressure, the more advanced and seriousness the condition is.
Hyperthyroidism, where the thyroid is operative, can cause a wider pulse pressure as can anemia (iron deficiency), raised intracranial pressure, endocarditis, chronic aortic regurgitation, heart block, and even anxiety. These conditions can all cause high blood pressure which can lead to a widened pulse pressure.
Treating Widened Pulse Pressure at Home
There are many things you can try at home to try and combat widened pulse pressure before needed to resort to medication. Exercise is one of the first things you can try. This causes the heart to become more familiar with the extra pressure and therefore teaches it how to deal with the situation more effectively. It has been said that partaking in regular bouts of physical exercise (3-5 x 20minutes per week) can help to reduce your widened pulse pressure by as much as 10mmHg.
If you are overweight, losing weight can help reduce the amount of pressure put on all your vital body parts and organs, but definitely your heart resulting in lower pulse pressure. When you are overweight, there is more force and pressure needed to pump the blood therefore more pressure is being put on your heart to deal with the overload.
Your diet can also have a very interested effect on your blood and pulse pressure and the healthier you eat, making sure you consume enough fresh fruit and vegetables, the healthier your pulse pressure will also be. Reducing the amount of ‘bad’ carbohydrates you intake will help you not only to lose weight, but also to reduce blood and pulse pressure.
Vitamins and minerals can help so sometimes, considering a daily multivitamin could give you the boost you need. Magnesium and vitamin D are two important ones to look out for it you want to overcome blood pressure problems, although it can take a long time for magnesium supplements to have any impact if your diet has been lacking for some time.
Treating Widened Pulse Pressure with Medication
If at-home remedies haven’t worked to try and reduce your widened pulse pressure, it’s time to speak to the doctor about medicated treatments that could have better results. There are a number of medications available to help with the condition including:
Beta blockers – Reducing the speed the heart beats, beta blockers help to open the blood vessels and reduce the blood pressure.
Thiazide diuretics – Reducing the amount of water and sodium in your body, the medication helps to reduce the volume of blood therefore reducing the pressure and damage it could cause to already-damaged arteries.
ACE inhibitors – There is an enzyme present in the body that can cause the vessels to constrict and when you take ACE inhibitors, the vessels are able to dilate once again and the blood can flow as normal.
There are also a number of others to try – Renin inhibitors, vasodilators and ARB’s.