To help control high blood pressure, also called hypertension, research has shown that monitoring blood pressure at home can be helpful in addition to regular monitoring in a healthcare provider's office. Your doctor may recommend that you monitor your blood pressure at home if:
- You have been diagnosed with pre-hypertension (systolic --- top --- number between 120 and 139 mm Hg OR diastolic --- bottom --- number between 80 and 89 mm Hg)
- You have been diagnosed with hypertension (systolic 140 mm Hg or above OR diastolic 90 mm Hg or above)
- You have risk factors for high blood pressure
The American Heart Association recommends home monitoring for all people with high blood pressure to help the healthcare provider determine whether treatments are working. Home monitoring is not a substitute for regular visits to your physician. If you have been prescribed medication to lower your blood pressure, don't stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor, even if your blood pressure readings are in the normal range during home monitoring.
Why is home monitoring important?
- Charting provides a "time-lapse picture"
Your healthcare provider will want an accurate picture of the situation inside your arteries. One measurement taken at the doctor's office is like a snapshot. It tells what your blood pressure is at that moment. Since there are no symptoms for HBP and no way to sense fluctuations in blood pressure, measuring is the only way to get the facts. Readings can vary throughout the day and can be temporarily influenced by factors such as emotions, diet and medication. A record of readings taken over time can provide you and your healthcare provider a clearer picture of your blood pressure. It can be like a time-lapse picture or movie, providing information on what is happening with your blood pressure over time.
- Charting can help eliminate false readings
Some people experience anxiety when at a doctor's office, which leads to temporarily higher readings. This condition is known as "white-coat hypertension." At the other extreme, some individuals have normal readings in a professional's office but elevated readings outside the office. This condition is often referred to as "reverse white-coat hypertension" or "masked hypertension."
Such false readings can lead to over-diagnosis or misdiagnosis of HBP. Self-measurement at home is good to reveal whether your blood pressure reading in the doctor's office is correct.
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Who should home monitor?
Home monitoring may be especially useful for:
- Patients starting HBP treatment to determine its effectiveness
- Patients requiring closer monitoring than intermittent office visits provide, especially individuals with coronary heart disease, diabetes and/or kidney disease
- Pregnant women since preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension can develop rapidly
- People who have some high readings at the doctor's office, to rule out white-coat hypertension and confirm true HBP
- Elderly patients, because the white-coat effect increases progressively with age
- People suspected of having masked hypertension
Who should not home monitor?
People with atrial fibrillation or other arrhythmias may not be good candidates for home monitoring. Why? Oscillometric-method monitoring devices recommended for use at home may not be able to give accurate measurements for people with these conditions. If your healthcare professional recommends home monitoring, have your monitor's readings compared to readings taken by the auscultatory method. In this monitoring method, the professional uses a manual blood pressure cuff and stethoscope to listen to the blood pulsing through your brachial artery.
This content was last reviewed on 04/04/2012.