This paper reviews the evolution of attitudes toward the treatment and diagnosis of hypertension. In particular, there is a growing realization that elevated systolic pressure may be a more valuable measurement in evaluating and controlling hypertension than is generally acknowledged. A large number of epidemiologic studies in a wide variety of populations have revealed that systolic blood pressure exerts a stronger influence than diastolic blood pressure. The largest of these, the Framingham Heart Study, showed that in subjects with systolic hypertension, diastolic blood pressure was only weakly related to the risk of cardiovascular events, but in those with diastolic hypertension, the risk of these events was strongly influenced by the level of systolic pressure. Furthermore, cardiovascular event rates were found to increase steeply with systolic pressure and were higher in cases of isolated systolic hypertension than diastolic hypertension. Clinical trials produced similar results, again suggesting that a greater reliance should be placed on systolic pressure in evaluating the risk of cardiovascular problems. This review concludes that the health community needs to be reeducated to consider the importance of systolic and diastolic blood pressure in assessing appropriate management strategies for hypertensive patients.