Ask the expert: Blood pressure monitoring

Blood pressure test

I read in the newspaper that you should use a home-monitoring kit for taking your blood pressure. Why is this and should I be concerned about the readings I had taken at my GP’s surgery?

Dr Mike Knapton says:

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recently updated its guidance on how to manage hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure. Up until now, any decisions about the treatment of hypertension have been based on the blood pressure readings taken at your surgery.

The changes have been made because of a common phenomenon called ‘white coat hypertension’

But now guidance says that two new methods can be used to confirm a diagnosis of hypertension. These are called ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) and home-based blood pressure monitoring (HBPM).

With ABPM, you wear a blood pressure cuff with an inbuilt recording device on your arm. It takes your blood pressure twice an hour for every hour you’re usually awake and hourly at night. The readings are recorded so that your doctor can look at them. HBPM involves you taking your own blood pressure at home, using a monitor similar to the one at your GP’s surgery.

The changes have been made because of a common phenomenon called ‘white coat hypertension’, which is when a person’s blood pressure temporarily rises in a medical setting because they feel anxious. This doesn’t happen to everyone but it can mean that a person’s average blood pressure could be overestimated.

Don’t worry about any readings that have already been taken but if you do have any concerns, chat to your GP or call the Heart Matters Helpline on 0300 330 3300.

Mike KnaptonMeet the expert

Dr Mike Knapton is Associate Medical Director (Prevention and Care) at the BHF, overseeing the strategic role in helping patients and the public reduce their risk of heart disease. He remains a GP and works one day a week at a practice in Cambridge.

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