High blood pressure is an important risk factor for both stroke and heart disease. But how do you know when your blood pressure is high? Hypertension has no reliable symptoms. It is simply a measurement on a blood pressure device. Sometimes people with blood pressure that runs high in the doctor’s office have fairly normal blood pressure at other times. We call this “white coat hypertension,” and it is fairly common. Could home monitoring make a difference?
Home Monitoring of Blood Pressure:
When blood pressure is measured on various devices, conscientious health care providers notice differences (Drawz, Current Hypertension Reports, July 2017). Frequently, doctors encourage people with hypertension to measure their blood pressure at home. People who trust the accuracy of blood pressure measurements appear more likely to take their pills (Alvarez et al, Blood Pressure Monitoring, online May 24, 2017).
Some doctors have wondered whether home monitoring makes any difference in blood pressure control. A meta-analysis of 52 studies showed that it can help (Uhlig et al, Annals of Internal Medicine, Aug. 6, 2013).
People who tracked their blood pressure at home had slightly lower systolic pressure, on average, than those whose blood pressure was measured only in the doctor’s office. Patients did best when home monitoring was paired with support through telephone calls or online contact.
What Do Other Studies of Home Monitoring Show?
In a different study, the investigators compared blood pressure readings from home monitoring, clinic visits and the gold standard, ambulatory monitoring (Souza et al, Arquivos Brasileiros de Cardiologia, Aug. 2011). Self-measured blood pressure correlated better with the measurements obtained by ambulatory blood pressure monitoring than clinic measurements did.
How Does Home Monitoring Help?
Keeping track of blood pressure at home helps people see how effective their medications can be. This practice also demonstrates the effects of exercise and dietary approaches such as beets, grapefruit, hibiscus tea or chocolate. The American Heart Association recommends home monitoring along with exercise, a plant-rich diet, weight loss and smoking cessation (Oza & Garcellano, American Family Physician, June 1, 2015).
To learn more about keeping hypertension at bay, you may wish to consult our Guide to Blood Pressure Treatment, which describes the pros and cons of medications as well as nondrug options.