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Blood pressure checks may be more accurate at home

A smiling black man in a hat.

Oct. 7, 2019—They say home is where the heart is—and sometimes it may be the best place to monitor the heart too. According to a recent study, checking blood pressure at home can better predict certain heart problems than checks at the doctor's office, especially for black adults.

A quiet killer

High blood pressure occurs more often in non-Hispanic black adults than in other groups, and it can be more severe. Unfortunately, it doesn't always cause symptoms, so many people might not know they have it—or that it's quietly damaging their health.

One serious problem it can cause is left ventricular hypertrophy (LVH). That's when the heart's left pumping chamber becomes thickened and can't pump well. That can prevent a healthy flow of blood to the rest of the body. It can even lead to heart failure, kidney failure or a stroke.

For the study, researchers looked at data from nearly 2,200 non-Hispanic black and white adults who had their blood pressure checked both inside and outside of a clinic. Then they used heart MRIs to look for signs of LVH.

They found that at-home blood pressure measurements were more than twice as accurate at predicting LVH than clinic measurements. And the accuracy was even better for black adults.

What gives home monitoring an edge?

Researchers pointed to two possible reasons for the inaccurate clinic measurements.

The white-coat effect occurs when a patient is nervous about seeing the doctor. Their blood pressure can rise in response, giving a less accurate measurement.

Masked hypertension is when blood pressure is lower in the office. That might happen when someone takes their blood pressure medicine just before an appointment, for example.

Whatever the reason, the study's authors said their findings highlight how valuable in-home blood pressure monitoring can be—especially for black adults.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that people with high blood pressure check their numbers regularly at home. It's a good idea to keep track of the results and show them to your doctor at each visit.

The study was published in the AHA journal Hypertension.

Find out how to get a more accurate blood pressure reading, no matter where you are.

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