A small investment in a home blood pressure monitor is a big step toward a healthy heart and lifestyle, says the American Heart Association along with two other national cardiovascular health groups. In a recent joint scientific statement, patients are encouraged to purchase their own electronic monitors to better track high blood pressure.
Studies show that weekly blood pressure readings taken at home provide a more accurate assessment of a person’s average blood pressure than the less frequent readings taken by a doctor during routine health exams. Home monitoring also gets patients more involved in their own health care which makes them more likely to follow treatment plans, exercise more and make positive changes in their diets.
“I hope this leads to a new era in patient-doctor partnerships,” said Thomas Pickering, M.D., D. Phil., leader of the team that wrote the new guidelines. “I think this is a very healthy trend, and with a condition like high blood pressure, it really does depend on the patients remembering to change their lifestyles and take their pills.”
The authors recommend digital blood pressure monitors that use a cuff on the arm rather than those that wrap around the wrist. Patients should take their monitor to their doctor’s office to check its accuracy and to get training on how to properly use the monitor.
Home readings should be taken twice a day—in the morning and again at night-- while sitting upright with legs uncrossed. Taking two or three readings at a time is best. To determine if a person has high blood pressure or not, readings should be done several days in a row for up to a week and reported to a doctor for interpretation.
Dr. Pickering and his colleagues hope that home blood pressure monitors will become as routine for hypertensive patients as finger stick glucose monitors have become for diabetics. They also support the idea that insurance companies reimburse patients with high blood pressure for the cost of their home blood pressure monitors to encourage more people to purchase and use them.
Pickering, T.G., et al., 2008.