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27 April 2023

Remote monitoring: why monitor your blood pressure from home? 

You may have read in the news late last year that the NHS announced it is giving away 220,000 blood pressure machines to patients with uncontrolled high blood pressure1. (A chunk of these were supplied by Kinetik.) You may be wondering though, why the NHS is so keen to get people checking their blood pressure at home. Read on to find out why. 

Kn5 1394 | Kinetik Wellbeing

Dr Katie BlogWritten by Dr Katie Stephens, GP

Dr Katie graduated from the University of Manchester in 2007 (MBChB) and completed her GP training in the West Midlands in 2012 (MRCGP). 

 

Improved accuracy

Many people are familiar with the term ‘white coat syndrome’, referring to the phenomenon of one’s blood pressure shooting up higher in a doctor’s office compared to sitting lower at home. This is why when doctors are first diagnosing someone with having high blood pressure (hypertension), we want to make sure that the readings we see in clinic are truly reflective of what that person’s blood pressure is like when they are elsewhere.  

In fact, the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence clearly advises that we collect home readings for most people before making a diagnosis and starting treatment2. So, apart from the exception of those with an altered heart rhythm that can affect digital machines (such as AF, or atrial fibrillation), checking your blood pressure from home is usually more informative and likely to be more accurate than having it checked at the doctor’s surgery. This is especially true if you are someone who gets white coat syndrome, provided of course that your device is clinically validated (as all of Kinetik’s are) and not out of date.  

Silent disease

Many times, raised blood pressure is picked up incidentally when someone goes to the nurse or doctor for an unrelated issue. This is because oftentimes people who have raised blood pressure don’t have any symptoms and so don’t necessarily make a conscious effort to have their blood pressure measured.  

In fact, in England alone, there are estimated to be some 5.5 million people who have hypertension but aren’t aware of it3. Compared to other countries such as Canada, where some 65% of adults with hypertension are both diagnosed and managed well, we are only managing some 35% in England3. 

By having healthy adults check their blood pressure at home, we can then pick up issues before they cause problems. For those who already have hypertension, being able to monitor readings at home can increase insight to how well (or unwell) their blood pressure is controlled, hopefully then leading to improved control through liaising with their GP and making appropriate medication and/or lifestyle changes. 

Serious consequences

The reason this all matters so much is because hypertension is a massive risk factor for other, serious medical conditions. According to the UK government, it’s actually the number one biggest risk factor for cardiovascular disease and contributes to half of all strokes and heart attacks3. But it doesn’t stop there – raised blood pressure can also lead to heart failure, kidney disease, eye damage and dementia. 

Unlike some risk factors which are impossible to alter, such as what you inherit in your genetics, high blood pressure is actually usually very treatable. For many people, this may not even involve medication. Some people whose blood pressure is only mildly elevated may be able to bring it down into a normal range by shedding a few excess pounds. (If you think this might be you, please speak to your NHS GP.) 

This is important

The combination of raised blood pressure being asymptomatic, easy to detect on testing, underdiagnosed by millions, having serious consequences, and being so treatable all at the same time mean that getting more people to test their blood pressure (even if it’s on a machine at the chemists if you choose not to purchase your own), is actually a hugely important step in preventing scores of unnecessary heart attacks, strokes and deaths. 

You can read more about high blood pressure here4 or speak to your NHS GP about any concerns you may have about your own blood pressure readings. 

References

  1. https://www.nhsx.nhs.uk/news/nhs-offers-home-blood-pressure-checks-to-save-thousands-of-lives/ 
  1. https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng136/chapter/Recommendations#diagnosing-hypertension  
  1. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/health-matters-combating-high-blood-pressure/health-matters-combating-high-blood-pressure  
  1. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/  

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