TUESDAY, Aug. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Tracking your own blood
pressure at home can help you control hypertension, a new research
And if you have a clinician's help in monitoring your blood
pressure, you'll likely do even better, at least in the short term,
according to the study, which was published Aug. 6 in the journal
Annals of Internal Medicine.
"For adults with hypertension who are willing and able to monitor their blood pressure at home in conjunction with their health care center, self-monitored blood pressure can be a useful tool to lower blood pressure, and possibly lower the risk of cardiovascular events, at least for the short term," said lead researcher Dr. Ethan Balk, from the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.
Whether the benefits extend beyond one year needs further
research, said Balk, whose team looked at more than 50 studies on
the effectiveness of home blood pressure monitoring.
Self-monitoring includes keeping a record of the readings so a
physician can determine if your blood pressure medicine is working
effectively or needs tweaking. Left uncontrolled, high blood
pressure can lead to stroke, eye and kidney damage, heart disease
Exactly how home monitoring keeps blood pressure levels low
isn't clear, Balk said. "Likely reasons are improved monitoring and
tailored treatment of blood pressure by both the clinician or
nursing staff and the patient, and increased incentives to control
one's diet and increase physical activity," he said. "But these
explanations are purely conjectural."
Also, it isn't clear to what degree additional support enhances
the benefits or which methods of additional support are best, Balk
"An important caveat is that the evidence refers to self-monitored blood pressure used in conjunction with clinicians and/or nurses who are using and monitoring the information," he said.
The results don't apply to people who decide on their own to
measure their blood pressure at home without consulting medical
professionals, he said.
The findings support current health care guidelines, said Dr.
Gregg Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of
California, Los Angeles, and a spokesman for the American Heart
"National and international guidelines, including those from the American Heart Association, recommend that patients with hypertension measure and monitor their blood pressure in the home setting, and a number of studies have shown this can result in better blood pressure control," he said.
"These findings ... highlight the importance of actively engaging patients in the measuring, monitoring, goal achievement and goal maintenance of their blood pressure," he said.
Blood-pressure-monitoring devices available in drugstores and
other shops range in price from $30 to more than $100.
When choosing a device, the American Heart Association
recommends an automatic, cuff-style, upper-arm monitor. Wrist and
finger monitors are not recommended because they yield less
reliable readings. Monitors for the elderly or pregnant women
should be validated specifically for those purposes.
For the current report, Balk's team reviewed 52 published
studies in which patients monitored their blood pressure with and
without assistance. Such help ranged from educational materials to
contact with a nurse or pharmacist or counseling over the
They found some evidence that monitoring blood pressure at home
improved control at six months, but not at 12 months.
When patients got help, either through educational material or
direct contact with medical professionals, home monitoring improved
blood pressure control at both six and 12 months.
From this data, Balk's group concluded that home blood pressure
monitoring is effective in the short term.
For more information on blood pressure, visit the
American Heart Association.
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