Quality CareFind out why Mayo Clinic is the right place for your health care. Make an appointment.
Meet the StaffFind a directory of doctors and departments at all Mayo Clinic campuses. Visit now.
Research and Clinical TrialsSee how Mayo Clinic research and clinical trials advance the science of medicine and improve patient care. Explore now.
Visit Our SchoolsEducators at Mayo Clinic train tomorrow’s leaders to deliver compassionate, high-value, safe patient care. Choose a degree.
Professional ServicesExplore Mayo Clinic’s many resources and see jobs available for medical professionals. Get updates.
Give to Mayo ClinicHelp set a new world standard in care for people everywhere. Give now.
Mayo Clinic offers appointments in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota and at Mayo Clinic Health System locations.
Subscribe to Housecall
Our general interest e-newsletter keeps you up to date on a wide variety of health topics.
What is pulse pressure? How important is pulse pressure to your overall health?
Blood pressure readings are given in two numbers. The top number is the maximum pressure your heart exerts while beating (systolic pressure), and the bottom number is the amount of pressure in your arteries between beats (diastolic pressure). The numeric difference between your systolic and diastolic blood pressure is called your pulse pressure. For example, if your resting blood pressure is 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), your pulse pressure is 40 — which is considered a normal and healthy pulse pressure.
A high pulse pressure may be a strong predictor of heart problems and, especially for older adults, if your pulse pressure is greater than 60 it is considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Generally, a pulse pressure greater than 40 mm Hg is abnormal. A pulse pressure lower than 40 may mean you have poor heart function, while a higher pulse pressure may mean your heart's valves are leaky (valve regurgitation).
The most important cause of elevated pulse pressure is stiffness of the aorta, the largest artery in the body. The stiffness may be due to high blood pressure or fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries (atherosclerosis). The greater your pulse pressure, the stiffer and more damaged the vessels are thought to be. Other conditions — including severe iron deficiency (anemia) and overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) — can increase pulse pressure as well.
Treating high blood pressure usually reduces pulse pressure.
Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D.
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Proceeds from website advertising help support our mission. Mayo Clinic does not endorse non-Mayo products and services.
Check out these best-sellers and special offers on books and newsletters from Mayo Clinic.
A single copy of these materials may be reprinted for noncommercial personal use only. "Mayo," "Mayo Clinic," "MayoClinic.org," "Mayo Clinic Healthy Living," and the triple-shield Mayo Clinic logo are trademarks of Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research.
We comply with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information: verify here.