Factors Effecting Systolic Blood Pressure

A man walking briskly in a parking lot.
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Systolic blood pressure is the first number recorded in a blood pressure and is the top number. The measurement is a vital indicator of your health status. When diagnosed with hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, this number will be elevated. Many factors impact the systolic blood pressure, including physical, mental and a medical component. All these factors can be manipulated to lower or raise the systolic pressure.

Physical Health

Physical health has the largest overall impact on the systolic blood pressure. Every organ system contributes to the balance of blood pressure, although the heart, kidneys and brain have the largest roles in regulating the systolic measurement. The systolic number is a direct reflection of how hard the heart must work to pump blood. For instance, if you have high cholesterol or atherosclerosis (hardened arteries), your heart must work twice as hard to pump blood through narrowed vessels, resulting in an elevated systolic blood pressure. If you suffer from renal failure, the kidneys cannot effectively remove the extra fluid, presenting a challenge to your heart. Changing the systolic blood pressure must include addressing these underlying factors. The human body is constantly trying to regain a sense of balance. For example, when cold, your blood pressure will increase as the blood vessels constrict to decrease heat loss from your skin and extremities. Conversely, when overheated, the blood pressure drops as your vessels dilate to assist in cooling the body. When in pain, the blood pressure automatically raises as an indication of stress. These are natural, automatic actions that cannot be controlled. However, you can control your climate and comfort level, which will have a direct impact on your systolic pressure.


Emotions and your psyche play a large role in affecting your systolic blood pressure. Think back to the last time you were frightened. When scared, your body has an automatic response to this stressor which includes increasing your heart rate, dilating your irises and raising your blood pressure. Similar effects occur when you are sad, angry and excited. Although you cannot stop this automatic response, you can learn how to condition your body so that your responses are not so extreme in day-to-day life. Complementary medicine focuses on aspects such as meditation, aromatherapy and yoga to condition the mind. In meditation, the body stays completely focused and still and the systolic blood pressure will drop. Aromatherapists believe that certain scents can trigger a relax response deep in the brain, therefore calming the mind-body connection and lowering the blood pressure. Finally, as yoga is a mixture of relaxing poses and meditation, it exacts the same relaxing effects on the blood pressure as the mind.

Vices, Both Good and Bad

You probably harbor a vice that may be affecting your systolic blood pressure. Habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol, caffeine or illicit drug use can impact the number immediately, whereas poor sleep habits and a sedentary life style will affect the number in the long term. Both are vitally important, as daily increases in systolic pressure place unnecessary stress on the heart. Although that second cup of coffee seems innocent, the additional caffeine has an immediate effect on your systolic blood pressure by constricting blood vessels, increasing the workload on the heart and raising the systolic number. The effect of using tobacco is much the same in that tobacco constricts arteries and elevates the heart rate. Some vices can assist the heart and actually decrease your systolic numbers. Running, for instance, is a vice to some athletes. Running or walking daily (not just to your car) can have multiple benefits that impact your systolic numbers, such as weight loss, stress relief and increased strength of your heart. So, the next time you consider that third cup of coffee and cigarette, trade them for a brisk walk around your workplace.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker before leaving the house.