—A Special Report from Victor Marchione, MD
The best place to check your blood pressure is at home, according to a new study. Rather than heading in every so often to the doctor’s office, the ideal way to help protect yourself from stroke or heart attack is to routinely measure your blood pressure at home.
There is good reason for this. On one hand, you are liable to monitor blood pressure more closely, as doing so is fast and easy, and falling into a routine in the comfort of your home is much simpler than transiting to the clinic. As well, you are more relaxed and calm at home, compared to a clinic, thus you can take a truer measure of your blood pressure. That’s because, in doctor’s offices, the so-called “white coat effect” can heighten your stress levels just temporarily and lead to an atypical blood pressure reading.
Straight up, the new study says that home-measured blood pressure is more useful than doctor’s-office-measured blood pressure for predicting major heart problems. It is newly published in the journal “Hypertension.”
It took place in Finland, with nearly 2,100 people between the ages of 45 and 74. Researchers interviewed participants, did medical exams, and asked them to monitor their blood pressure at home on good-quality devices. About seven years later, 162 people had suffered at least one heart disease-related issue, such as a stroke or heart attack or heart failure. Another 37 had died of heart disease.
Looking at all the information, researchers understood that the better prediction of heart attacks, strokes and even deaths was due to monitoring blood pressure at home. Simply put, the measurements at home tended to be more accurate. This is truly a case of bringing preventative medicine straight into the home.
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the biggest risk factors for such serious illnesses as kidney disease, stroke, and heart disease. Its prevalence is absolutely huge: the Centers for Disease Control have it pegged at about 33% of the population having hypertension. Every year, several hundred thousand U.S. adults die from a cause to which high blood pressure contributed.
Obtaining a home blood pressure kit is not difficult. You can ask your doctor for recommendations, or even the local pharmacist. It is likely that all pharmacies nowadays carry several options for monitoring kits. A quality kit is likely to cost somewhere in the neighborhood of $70.00.