Measurements at home increasingly valued for high blood pressure management

( — Most adults are familiar with measuring blood pressure. This value documents the hydraulic pressure of blood, the force necessary to propel life-giving oxygen, nutrients and immune cells through out our system to keep us conscious and alive.

Too much pressure of course can damage the brain, eyes, kidneys and heart. Therefore, doctors usually measure your blood pressure as a matter of routine. When the pressure is high, 140/90 consistently, hypertension is diagnosed and dietary and lifestyle changes are suggested first, drugs second.

What if your measurement, however, is increased by the stress of your visit to the clinic? This is called “white coat hypertension” and it is real.

Physicians do not want to treat white coat hypertension because this condition is a temporary response to stress and resolves after patients leave the clinic.

What we would really like to document is blood pressures at home. As a result, medical reports on the Internet are heralding new emphasis on home blood pressure monitoring, also referred to as ambulatory monitoring.

One expert, Dr. T.G. Pickering, writing in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension, recommends new guidelines for patients to consider that may be more universally recognized within the near future.

Once a physician detects a blood pressure of 140/90 in the clinic the patient is encouraged to purchase and use a home blood pressure cuff. New cuffs are digital, automated, easy to use and emulate the accuracy of office equipment.

If several measurements over a period of weeks show blood pressure trends less than 125/75, doctors are reassured that the higher measures are white coat hypertension, treatment is not needed, and the patients can be encouraged to continue monitoring home blood pressure while working on lifestyle modifications such as smoking cessation, weight loss and exercise.


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