Harvard Women's Health Watch

In the journals: Experts call for home blood pressure monitoring

In the journals

Experts call for home blood pressure monitoring

About 73 million Americans — nearly half of them women — have hypertension (high blood pressure), a condition that propels blood too forcefully through blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney damage. If you have hypertension or borderline hypertension, you should be checking your blood pressure at home on a regular basis. That's the major recommendation in a joint statement from the American Heart Association (AHA), the American Society of Hypertension (ASH), and the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association (PCNA).

The expert panel that issued the statement was chaired by Dr. Thomas G. Pickering of Columbia University. The statement itself was jointly published online May 22, 2008, in the journal Hypertension and the Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing and in print in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension (May 2008) and the Journal of Clinical Hypertension (June 2008). Although other guidelines on managing hypertension have endorsed home blood pressure monitoring, this is the first time experts have given detailed advice about its use.

The statement, which also urges that the cost of home monitors be reimbursed, marshals evidence that regular home monitoring gives a more accurate picture of an individual's blood pressure than readings in a health care setting or merely occasional, casual monitoring (at home or in drugstores, for example). Regular, daily home blood pressure checks are also better than office-based readings alone for identifying the risk of a heart attack or other cardiovascular event, and for judging the effectiveness of a medication or other pressure-lowering strategy. Also, home blood pressure monitoring involves people more in their care, which can bolster their efforts to make behavior changes and take their medications.

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