Blood pressure – both high and low – can be a sign or cause of numerous underlying conditions. High blood pressure, in particular, is important to monitor as it is a contributing risk factor for both cardiovascular disease and strokes. Which is why it is important to not only measure your blood pressure regularly but to also ensure that the measurement is a true and accurate reflection of your blood pressure.
What Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring is
Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring (ABPM) refers to the process of wearing a blood pressure cuff – usually for 24 hours – in order to measure your blood pressure over an extended period of time as you go about your everyday life. Unlike a blood pressure measurement taken by your doctor, ABPM can give an accurate overview of how your blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day, rather than just producing a single reading.
Negating the White Coat Effect
One of the many reasons why ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is so important is because it negates the so-called “white coat” effect that occurs during a blood pressure measurement carried out by a doctor. Also referred to as “white coat syndrome” and “white coat hypertension”, it describes the false hypertension that patients often exhibit in a clinic setting, although their blood pressure is normal in every other setting. This is often attributed to the fact that many of us naturally feel tenser when we are seeing a medical professional, whether we realise it or not.
Because of this effect, it can make it difficult to accurately diagnose someone with hypertension as a blood pressure reading taken at home might be normal, while one taken by your doctor could result in high blood pressure readings. Results that indicate hypertension are often used to determine if a patient requires blood pressure medication, and if someone is suffering from the “white coat” effect when their blood pressure is measured, then he or she could end up suffering from low blood pressure as a result of being prescribed medication intended to treat hypertension.
This is why 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is vital, because it gives a more accurate overview of your blood pressure and it takes place in the comfort of your own home. In doing so, it does away with the tension associated with the “white coat” effect, producing a true measurement of your blood pressure.
Monitoring At-Risk Patients
Diagnosing hypertension is not the only important function of 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. It can also be used to measure a number of other blood pressure-related issues, and monitor at-risk patients. Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is particularly useful for monitoring early morning hypertension and excessive blood pressure variability, both of which are high-risk conditions.
Patients already on blood pressure medication can also benefit greatly from 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. Using the results, your doctor can assess how well your current medication is working, and check if it is controlling your blood pressure and keeping it within the normal range throughout the day. If not, your prescription can then be adjusted accordingly, either to a long-acting drug if your blood pressure spikes throughout the day, or fast-acting one if your current medication is making your blood pressure drop too low once you have taken it.
As blood high blood pressure can often be an indicator of potential cardiovascular events, it is particularly important to properly monitor it in patients who have been deemed to be at risk, or have a previous history of cardiovascular events.