Dr Yassir Javaid
Professor Neil Poulter
Journalist & Author
Home blood pressure monitoring can help a doctor make the diagnosis and monitor the treatment of hypertension which leads to reduced risk of serious cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke.
In the past, high blood pressure — or hypertension — has often been diagnosed via a ‘snapshot’ one-off reading in the GP surgery or clinic. But health experts acknowledge that this approach often delivered inaccurate outcomes.
Patients are now asked to measure their blood pressure in the comfort of their homes over seven days to ascertain an average reading.
The recommended approach is for people to sit down, relax and take two or three readings, one minute apart in the morning and the evening. This can deliver a more accurate reading and leads to better diagnosis.
Professor Neil Poulter says that the majority of people over 60 can be affected by high blood pressure. “It is a common problem … with 10.8 million deaths each year due to raised blood pressure,” he says.
In the UK, 30% of adult men and 23% of adult women have hypertension. Measuring blood pressure at home with a clinically validated blood pressure monitor helps to get an early diagnosis and can advance achieving target values in combination with telemonitoring.
Clinicians call it the ‘silent killer’ because it rarely has symptoms, and many people do not even know they have hypertension, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, vascular dementia and kidney failure.
Professor Poulter says home measuring is important to help clinicians diagnose the condition and prevent such cardiovascular events from occurring.
“That gives a much better view of what blood pressure is throughout the week rather than one snapshot reading in a GP surgery; this can better help predict cardiovascular events,” says Professor Poulter, who established the global blood pressure screening campaign May Measurement Month in 2017.
“We can then treat people with drugs and dietary measures to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.” He emphasises the importance of the correct usage of a machine that is clinically validated.
This is about primary prevention of blood pressureYassir Javaid
because prolonged blood pressure
can cause a variety of problems.
White coat and masked hypertension
Dr Yassir Javaid, a GP with a specialist interest in cardiology, says: “Multiple readings at home, averaged out, is a much more accurate reflection of day-to-day blood pressure than having a reading done in a clinic.”
GPs no longer tend to base diagnosis and treatment of hypertension on clinic readings. He also pointed to the phenomenon of ‘white coat hypertension’ where patients can have elevated blood pressure in the clinic but normal blood pressure at home.
However, he emphasises that white coat hypertension should not be dismissed as those patients may develop hypertension in the future.
There is also ‘masked’ hypertension where patients display normal levels of blood pressure in clinical settings but actually have elevated blood pressures elsewhere. With home blood pressure monitoring, patients and GPs will be able to see these readings.
Benefits of home monitoring
Emphasising the value of home readings, Dr Javaid says: “This is about primary prevention of blood pressure because prolonged blood pressure can cause a variety of problems.”
Patients can share written blood pressure readings with their GP or send them digitally via devices such as the OMRON Connect app and device. Sharing data contributes to improved therapeutic compliance and achieving target values earlier, which reduces cardiovascular risks significantly.
Freelance journalist Liz Hoggard, 60, who has a family history of heart disease and high blood pressure finds the OMRON device helpful and easy to use. She regularly uses it and says she benefits from real-time assessment in a familiar environment, rather than going to a GP.
According to Liz Hoggard: “The advantage is that the app does the analytics in terms of the rolling average … Very early aggressive intervention can pretty much get rid of the excess risk, but the foundation is a healthy lifestyle before we even think about starting medication.”