Fall 2013

Under Pressure

Home hypertension testing shows mixed results

Roughly one third of American adults—more than 76 million people—have hypertension, or blood pressure registering 140/90 mm Hg or higher, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And of course, controlling blood pressure is critical to reducing everyone’s risk of a heart attack or stroke.

But those patients who monitor their blood pressure at home may not be getting the best care for their condition, according to a study published this summer in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The researchers analyzed 52 studies that tracked patients who monitored their own blood pressure using some of the devices recently marketed to consumers—with and without additional support from their doctor. The researchers found that those who self-monitored experienced modest reductions in their blood pressure readings at six months, but drew even with the control group after a year. Among those who paired self-monitoring with outside support, such as regular consultation with a doctor, the benefits lasted longer than a year.

Home blood-pressure monitoring can be useful, Katrin Uhlig, a nephrologist at Tufts Medical Center who was lead author of the article, told the Wall Street Journal. But to see major benefits, she noted, patients would need support from a doctor’s office. “You would need the infrastructure for transmission of [blood pressure] values and have systems in place to act on readings in a responsible way,” she said.

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