It happens all too often. You go to your local pharmacy’s blood pressure machine and your reading is normal. But then, when you go to your doctor’s office, it’s much, much higher. One solution for this common phenomenon, known as “white-coat hypertension,” is 24-hour blood pressure monitoring.
Your doctor may recommend that you wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor, which is attached to the upper arm by means of a standard blood pressure cuff. A small, battery-powered waist pack is attached to the blood pressure cuff by small hoses or tubes that remain easily hidden beneath your clothes. Roughly every 15 to 30 minutes, the blood pressure cuff automatically inflates and the results are recorded for your doctor to analyze.
Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Curtis Rimmerman, MD, says 24-hour home blood pressure monitoring is helpful and presents a more accurate picture of a patient’s blood pressure than isolated readings.
“This type of monitoring provides your physician with multiple blood pressure readings throughout the day – even during varying levels of activity, including exercise and sleep,” Dr. Rimmerman explains. Obtaining recordings during sleep can be quite helpful, as blood pressure normally decreases during sleep. The lack of this “nocturnal dip” can lend greater certainty to the diagnosis of hypertension.
“You get a much better big picture of the patient’s blood pressure with the 24-hour monitoring,” he says. “I find it to be a valuable tool in diagnosing hypertension in my patients.” In addition to being used in patients who suffer from “white-coat hypertension,” this monitoring technique also is helpful in patients whose blood pressure at home varies widely throughout the day. “It's great for providing an average blood pressure, especially in those patients with wide blood pressure swings,” he notes.
Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring has no known risks, Dr. Rimmerman says, except for a slight squeezing sensation during inflation of the blood pressure cuff while recording.