Confirm High Blood Pressure at Home, U.S. Task Force Says
By Steven Reinberg
MONDAY, Oct. 12, 2015 (HealthDay News) — High blood pressure levels should generally be confirmed with home or ambulatory blood pressure monitoring before starting treatment for hypertension, a new U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommendation says.
Many factors can affect blood pressure readings, such as stress, physical activity and caffeine or nicotine, the USPSTF said. And, some people experience “white-coat hypertension” — an increase in blood pressure at the doctor’s office from stress — when having their blood pressure taken.
All of these factors can make it hard to tell if someone really has high blood pressure, the researchers said.
That’s why the Task Force recommends confirming a diagnosis of high blood pressure, or hypertension, before starting treatment, unless someone has very high blood pressure that needs to be treated right away.
“For most patients, elevated blood pressure readings in the doctor’s office should be confirmed outside the doctor’s office before starting treatment,” said Task Force vice-chair Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo.
“For individuals who have very high blood pressure or other health problems, such as heart or kidney damage, that might make it critical to lower blood pressure, this recommendation doesn’t really apply to them. This recommendation is really for individuals where one wants to confirm high blood pressure,” Bibbins-Domingo said.
Blood pressure levels can be confirmed with ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. Your doctor will provide a small, portable device that automatically measures your blood pressure every 20 to 30 minutes over 12 to 48 hours. If this method isn’t available, people can take their blood pressure at different times throughout the day using home blood pressure monitoring, the USPSTF said.
The Task Force recommendations were published online Oct. 12 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is the first choice for confirming a diagnosis of high blood pressure, the Task Force said. But, when not available, home monitors are an acceptable alternative.
Home blood pressure monitoring devices can cost from less than $20 to $100 or more, according to Consumers Union. Devices that use upper arm readings — rather than finger or wrist — are considered more accurate, the American Heart Association (AHA) says. But, it’s important that the cuff that wraps around your arm fits properly, the AHA advises.