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Single Reading Can't Gauge Blood Pressure Control: Study
Date:6/21/2011

By Kathleen Doheny
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 20 (HealthDay News) -- Evaluating how well a person responds to medication meant to lower blood pressure requires multiple readings, new research suggests.

Blood pressure often spikes at doctor appointments, a condition known as "white coat" hypertension, so readings should also be taken by patients at home, said the study's lead author, Dr. Benjamin Powers, assistant professor of medicine at Duke University Medical Center.

''Collecting just a few, five or six, blood pressure readings from home will help your doctor make much better decisions about whether your blood pressure is in or out of control," Powers said.

For the study, Powers and his colleagues evaluated 444 U.S. veterans with high blood pressure, about 90 percent of them men with an average age of 64. All had been diagnosed about 10 years earlier. Their blood pressure was considered uncontrolled, even though most took multiple blood pressure-lowering medications. Untreated, high blood pressure can lead to stroke.

The study compared blood pressure readings taken in three settings -- at home, in a doctor's office, and at a clinical research setting -- at the study start and again at 6, 12 and 18 months. The findings are published in the June 21 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The measurements varied widely, Powers found. "Only a third of them were consistently categorized as in or out of control by all three measures," he said.

That points to the importance of getting multiple measures from different settings, said Powers, who is also with the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Using just one reading as the basis for prescribing or adjusting blood pressure medication could endanger patients who suffer from "white coat" hypertension, the study authors said.

As many as six readings were needed to obtain the best estimate of true blood pressure, the authors
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