New test can spot when high blood pressure is down to nerves

( — As many as 1 in 4 people have what’s called ‘white coat hypertension’. This means that their blood pressure goes up when they go to see their doctor, probably because of nerves. If undetected, white coat hypertension can lead to a person being wrongly diagnosed with high blood pressure and having unnecessary treatment.

If your doctor thinks you might have white coat hypertension, you may be asked to measure your blood pressure at home, or wear an automated device that checks your blood pressure repeatedly over 24 hours. This is called 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, or ABPM for short.

ABPM is an accurate method of blood pressure testing, but many people find that the device is uncomfortable to wear or disrupts their sleep. Measuring your own blood pressure at home may be a more appealing option, but it often doesn’t provide as accurate a reading.

Researchers have now devised an alternative, which can be done in a doctor’s surgery. A person sits alone in a quiet room for 30 minutes, and their blood pressure is tested every five minutes with the same device that’s used in ABPM. The first blood pressure reading is discarded, as it may be falsely high, and then the rest are averaged to produce a final reading.

To check the accuracy of this approach, researchers recruited 84 people who had their blood pressure tested using the new method, followed by 24-hour ABPM (for the study, the researchers looked only at the daytime readings). The researchers then compared these results with readings done by medical staff.


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