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Expert Groups Recommend Home Monitoring of Blood Pressure

Monitoring blood pressure at home is an important way for patients to be actively involved in their health. High blood pressure is the leading cause for heart attack, stroke, and death. Having it checked a few times a year by a physician is not enough to ensure it stays within a healthy range. In addition, patients may suffer from the “white coat effect,” which increases blood pressure during an office visit and may lead to inaccurate diagnoses of hypertension. Recent literature has shown that blood pressure measurements taken by patients at home are often times lower than readings taken in the office and are closer to the average blood pressure recorded by 24-hour monitors. Home blood pressure monitoring (HBPM) may be the best way to predict cardiovascular health risks.

Blood pressure is so variable that it seems inaccurate to base clinical decisions on a single measurement. Blood pressure can fluctuate depending on the time of day, medication or food recently ingested, and surroundings. In a recent Call to Action by the American Heart Association, American Society of Hypertension, and the Preventive Cardiovascular Care Nurses Association, experts suggest that you should take two or three blood pressure readings, one minute apart at the same time each day. Physicians should use at least twelve readings before making treatment decisions such as use and dosage of hypertension drugs.

Patients should buy an automated monitor with an upper arm cuff and avoid wrist or finger devices, which are often inaccurate. Home blood pressure monitoring is especially useful for patients with diabetes, pregnant women, children, patients with kidney disease, and the elderly. Although it is not yet known whether HBPM will reduce the incidence of heart attacks and strokes, researchers are optimistic about its potential benefits saying that it will improve the quality of care while reducing costs.

Monitoring your blood pressure is important, but knowing how to keep it at a safe level is even more important. Several recent posts have covered the role of diet and exercise in blood pressure regulation and will assist you in learning how to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. For more detailed information on diet & hypertensionan excellent book includes Eat Right - Electrolyte by W. Rex Hawkins, M.D. of which you can look over a synopsis of his book here.

Written by Ryan Serrano with Eric Sternlicht, Ph.D. Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA.