New research shows wide variations in blood pressure measurements between medical office visits, emphasizing the importance of home monitoring. Learn more here.
- Blood pressure measurements taken at the doctor’s office can vary widely between visits, making clinical decisions difficult.
- Out-of-office monitoring devices, such as home or ambulatory devices, are recommended to supplement office-based measurements.
- Accurately measuring blood pressure at home can lead to better hypertension treatment outcomes.
As a cardiologist and high blood pressure expert, I’m always interested in new research that sheds light on the importance of monitoring blood pressure outside of the doctor’s office.
A recent study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that blood pressure measurements taken in a medical office can vary widely between visits, highlighting the need for supplemental home monitoring.
Why Relying Solely On Office-Based Measurements Can Be Ineffective
According to the study’s lead author, assistant professor Yuan Lu of the Yale School of Medicine:
“These large variations in blood pressure measurements pose a great challenge to determine whether hypertension treatment is actually working…It makes clinical decisions very difficult.”
The analysis found that blood pressure readings can vary by an average of 12 mmHg between two consecutive visits, with even greater variations seen in those with extremely high blood pressure.
Additionally, the study found that if a person with high blood pressure was given medication to lower systolic levels by 10 mmHg, they would see a reduction of 5 mmHg or less at the next visit 37% of the time and no reduction 25% of the time.
Given these findings, it’s clear that relying solely on office-based measurements to manage high blood pressure can be ineffective.
That’s why guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend out-of-office measurements, using home or ambulatory devices, to supplement those taken by health care professionals.
The Benefits Of Home Monitoring
Home monitoring has several benefits over office-based measurements, including:
- The ability to take readings without distractions or anxiety-inducing factors present in a medical setting.
- The ability to take multiple readings at different times of day to get a better sense of blood pressure patterns.
- The ability to use validated devices to ensure accuracy.
How To Take An Accurate Blood Pressure Measurement At Home
To take an accurate blood pressure measurement at home, follow these steps:
- Use a validated automated upper-arm cuff.
- Don’t exercise, smoke or consume caffeine within 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.
- Empty your bladder and quietly sit still for at least five minutes.
- The arm being used for measurement should be on a flat surface, such as a table, with the upper arm at heart level.
- The bottom of the cuff should be directly above the bend in the elbow against bare skin.
- Sit with your back straight and supported, with feet flat on the floor.
- Take at least two measurements one minute apart in the morning before taking medications or eating breakfast and again in the evening before supper.
If you don’t have access to a home monitoring device, you can return to a health clinic for more frequent measurements or use a blood pressure kiosk at a local pharmacy.
The bottom line is that if you have high blood pressure, it’s important to monitor it regularly, not just when you visit your doctor.
Home monitoring is an easy and effective way to do this, and can help you and your doctor make more informed decisions about your treatment.
As always, be sure to follow your doctor’s advice and guidance when it comes to managing your blood pressure.
Blood pressure measurements in the clinic may vary widely between doctor’s visits. https://www.heart.org/en/news/2023/03/08/blood-pressure-measurements-in-the-clinic-may-vary-widely-between-doctors-visits