High blood pressure (called "hypertension") is a silent killer. It is a disease, which leads to accelerated hardening of the arteries due to increased pressure in the arterial system. When the heart contracts, the blood gets pushed forward into the aorta and into all of the arteries. At the time of a heart contraction, at the top of the wave, the systolic blood pressure is measured. When the heart muscle relaxes between two beats the elasticity of the aorta maintains a certain pressure, called the diastolic blood pressure. This reading tells the doctor what the pressure is at the bottom of the wave. A normal reading for an adult, for instance, would be 120/80 (read: " one hundred twenty over eighty" ). With this reading "120" means 120 mm of a mercury column in the older blood pressure measuring devices and this denotes the systolic pressure. "80" stands for 80 mm mercury and denotes the diastolic pressure. Right here I want to clear up a misconception: For many years the generally accepted medical opinion was that older people would "normally" have a higher blood pressure than younger people. This was later found to have been a mistake. It turned out that the observed elevated blood pressure in many older individuals was due to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). The rigidity of the arterial walls from arteriosclerosis was responsible for the observation of the higher blood pressure in older patients. Now we are treating this with antihypertensive medication, even if it is only "isolated systolic hypertension" (meaning that the diastolic pressure is normal).