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New study reveals doctors’ blood pressure measurements could miss health complications


New study reveals doctors’ blood pressure measurements could miss health complications

A recent study suggests that doctors may have been measuring blood pressure incorrectly, potentially missing certain health complications.

The research findings were presented at the American Heart Association’s hypertension scientific session in Boston on September 7, 2023.

The session focused on recent advances in basic and clinical research regarding high blood pressure and its connections to cardiac and kidney disease, stroke, obesity, and genetics.

The study, spanning nearly three decades, investigated how blood pressure measurements in different positions impacted the risk of various diseases.

The study’s authors found that doctors might not detect specific health issues if they rely solely on blood pressure readings taken while patients are sitting upright.

According to the researchers, the autonomic nervous system regulates blood pressure differently in various body positions. Gravity can lead to blood pooling when a person is seated or standing, potentially causing irregularities in blood pressure regulation during lying, sitting, and standing positions.

To arrive at their findings, scientists measured the blood pressure of 15,972 individuals both while lying down and sitting up. These participants’ health was then monitored for an average of 25 to 28 years, with the most recent data collected between 2011 and 2013.

The results revealed that 16 per cent of individuals who did not have high blood pressure when seated were found to have elevated readings when lying down.

Furthermore, three out of four participants (74%) who had high blood pressure in both seated and lying positions displayed increased risks, including a 1.6 times higher risk of future heart failure, a 1.86 times higher risk of stroke, a 1.43 times higher risk of premature death, and a 2.18 times higher risk of zcoronary heart disease.

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Participants who exhibited high blood pressure while lying down but not when seated faced similar elevated risks as those with high blood pressure in both positions. Importantly, differences in blood pressure medication use did not affect these elevated risks in either group.

The authors of the study recommend that doctors begin taking two blood pressure readings—one while patients are sitting upright and another while they are lying down.

Lead author Duc M. Giao, a researcher at Harvard Medical School, emphasized the importance of this approach, stating, “If blood pressure is only measured while people are seated upright, cardiovascular disease risk may be missed. Our findings suggest that individuals with known risk factors for heart disease and stroke may benefit from having their blood pressure checked while lying flat on their backs.”

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