Do I need to do 24-hour blood pressure monitoring?

Blood pressure reading

I’m a 60-year-old woman, and on my last two visits to my GP my blood pressure readings were 160/90 and 170/85 which I was told is too high. 

I have a family history of stroke, so I’m keen to take medication to lower my blood pressure, but my GP said I need to have it monitored over 24 hours before making a diagnosis. Is this correct?

Professor Peter Weissberg says:

A diagnosis of high blood pressure is not usually made from just one or two isolated readings and immediate drug treatment is only considered for severe high blood pressure. Your GP was talking about ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, which is when you are fitted with a blood pressure cuff that is wrapped around your arm, and is connected to a small device on a belt or strap worn on your body for 24 hours.

The monitor is set up to automatically measure your blood pressure at regular intervals throughout the day, so that your average blood pressure can be calculated. While you are having this type of monitoring you can carry on with all your usual activities apart from having a bath or shower, or going swimming.

A diagnosis of high blood pressure is not usually made from just one or two isolated readings

Another option is home blood pressure monitoring, which is when your nurse or doctor lends you a blood pressure machine (similar to the one used in the GP surgery) and instructs you on how often you should measure your blood pressure at home.

A diagnosis of high blood pressure will be made if your average daytime ambulatory or home blood pressure is 135/85mmHg or above.

If your blood pressure is found to be high your doctor will decide if medication is appropriate and will also tell you about lifestyle changes that can help. Doing more physical activity and cutting down on salt is beneficial and if you’re overweight, losing some weight can also help.

We've got some more information on different types of medication that may be used to control blood pressure, including:

ACE inhibitors
Beta blockers
Calcium channel blockers

Professor Peter WeissbergMeet the experts

Professor Peter Weissberg is the former Medical Director of the BHF and Honorary Consultant Cardiologist to Addenbrooke’s Hospital. He has a special interest in atherosclerosis.

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