Tracking Blood Pressure Over Time May Reveal Future Events
Your pattern of blood pressure readings over a period of years may be a better predictor of cardiovascular events than a single high reading.
Your pattern of systolic blood pressure from middle age onward may provide a more accurate snapshot of your risk of stroke and other hypertension-related complications than a single high blood pressure reading. That’s according to a study published recently in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension.
Researchers devised some common trajectories for blood pressure readings, and noted the risks associated with each one. For example, people whose blood pressure was borderline high in mid-life and then rose gradually over time had the lowest risk of stroke and a relatively low risk of death from non-stroke causes. Conversely, patients who had normal blood pressure in mid-life and later experienced a steep spike in blood pressure had the highest risk of stroke and dying from non-stroke complications up to age 80. The same is true for people, especially men, who had high blood pressure in mid-life and then experienced a decline in blood pressure after age 65—usually because they started taking anti-hypertensive medications.
The researchers suggest that knowing these patterns may be more helpful in projecting hypertension-related health complications than what can be learned from one blood pressure reading.
Leslie Cho, MD, co-director of Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic, says the results are interesting, but that a single reading still has great value, and that your current blood pressure is more important than the trajectory it took to get to this point.
“I think we should treat patients based on their blood pressure,” she says. “Does any physician feel reassured if their patient’s blood pressure is 170/100 but it was a gradual increase? Of course not. However, if their blood pressure rose precipitously then we would be even more concerned.”
Dr. Cho recommends yearly blood pressure checks, or more often if you are being treated for uncontrolled high blood pressure or your doctor recommends more frequent screenings. She also suggests using a home monitor if you are being treated for hypertension. Talk with your doctor about how to use it and how often to check your blood pressure.