If you have high blood pressure, you’re better off taking measurements periodically at home than relying on those taken in your doctor’s office, according to a recent study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It found that multiple home readings provide a more accurate picture of blood-pressure control—and thus might lead to better treatment.
Researchers analyzed systolic (upper) blood-pressure measurements taken from 444 veterans with hypertension over 18 months. They had their blood pressure measured in three ways: via a home monitor that transmitted measurements electronically three times a week; during regular office visits (approximately once a month) with their primary-care provider; and at 6-month intervals by the researchers conducting the study.
Rates of blood-pressure control—defined as a systolic reading of less than 140 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for in-office measurements and less than 135 mm Hg for home measurements—varied widely across the three methods, with the lowest rates (28 percent) coming from single doctor’s office measurements and the highest (68 percent) from the research measurements. The low rate of “controlled” readings at the doctor’s office could potentially lead to overtreatment with antihypertensive drugs, since physicians would rely on numbers that might be artificially high in determining where to go with drug treatment.
In contrast, the researchers found that taking an average blood-pressure reading from several measurements resulted in substantially greater accuracy, and suggested home monitoring as a convenient, cost-effective way of generating those measurements. “The effect of within-patient variability could be greatly reduced by averaging several measurements, with most benefit accrued at 5 to 6 measurements,” they wrote.
Bottom line: If you have hypertension, this study provides more reason to get a home monitor, and to use it regularly. For tip on how to get the best results, watch our video, below.
Measuring Blood Pressure for Decision Making and Quality Reporting: Where and How Many Measures? [ANNALS OF INTERNAL MEDICINE]