Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Checking blood pressure at home

Heart Beat

Checking blood pressure at home

Once upon a time, about the only way you could check your blood pressure was to see your doctor and have it measured in his or her office. Today you can do it at home, thanks to the profusion of inexpensive home monitors. A randomized trial that included 430 Dutch volunteers with mild high blood pressure suggests that home monitoring may be as good as, or in some cases better than, office monitoring. Volunteers randomized to check their pressure at home six times a day were more likely to have reached their blood pressure goals, and used fewer medications to do it, than those who had their pressure checked only in a doctor's office. The results were published in the December 2007 Hypertension.

The results aren't a slam dunk for home monitoring. At the end of the yearlong trial, 24-hour blood pressure recordings were a touch higher in the home monitoring group than in the doctors' office group. That could be a statistical problem, or it might mean some participants in the home group were fudging the readings they reported. Either way, the results suggest that while home monitoring is safe and effective, it's still worth having your doctor check your blood pressure, too.

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