Britain pushes ’radical’ change to high blood pressure monitoring

NPR/The Lancet, August 25, 2011
A blood pressure check may well be the world's most common medical procedure. Measuring blood pressure is quick, painless, and provides a pretty good clue to risks for future heart attacks and strokes. But some researchers now say that the classic cuff test can be misleading. Blood pressure readings at the doctor's office or at home give too many falsely high readings, according to a new report in The Lancet. As a result, too many people get put on medicine to lower blood pressure ? as many as 25 percent of people may be on drugs unnecessarily, the researchers conclude. So, as of today, the British government's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence now recommends that people who get a blood pressure reading of 140/90 millimeters of mercury or higher in the doctor's office get sent home with a mobile blood pressure monitor. The device straps around the waist and takes blood pressure readings for 24 hours. The new testing regime, which the British institute calls "radical", is designed to overcome common errors in blood pressure testing. A person's blood pressure varies from hour to hour, and day to day.

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