You are using an older version of Internet Explorer that is not supported on this site. Please upgrade for the best experience.

Worried about your home blood pressure monitor's accuracy? "Don't be," says Dr. Quinn Pack

June 18, 2017
“Don’t stop!” is Dr. Quinn Pack’s response to those who might have seen a recent study in the news that reported home blood pressure monitors are wrong 7 out of 10 times.

The Canadian researchers found the units weren’t accurate within five mmHg of blood pressure about 70 percent of the time, and the devices were off the mark by at least 10 mmHg about 30 percent of the time, said investigators.

But, Dr. Pack noted, it’s also important to remember that the readings in this study were sometimes both too high and too low, so the potential disagreement goes both ways.

“I don’t think anyone who owns these home devices should be worried. Guidelines suggest we should be doing more of this home blood pressure measurement, not less. My personal opinion is that anyone who has hypertension should have a home blood pressure device and should monitor themselves enough to know if their blood pressure is at goal,” said Dr. Pack, a preventive cardiologist in the Heart & Vascular Program at Baystate Medical Center.

Home blood pressure monitoring cannot take the place of physician measurements during your checkup.

“But, don’t forget, in a rushed environment or busy clinical day, the measurement of blood pressure in your doctor’s office is also sometimes just as inaccurate or even worse. I generally tend to believe the home blood pressure measures more, because they are done when the patient is relaxed, at home, and comfortable,” said Dr. Pack.

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure is necessary to move the blood throughout your body so it can get to all the body’s organs. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, puts you at risk for heart disease. When your blood pressure is high, your heart has to work harder. High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because it often has no symptoms. If not treated, high blood pressure raises your chances of stroke, heart attack, kidney problems, and even death.

“The good news is that high blood pressure is very treatable with well-tolerated medications,” said Dr. Pack.

For those with home monitors or those considering purchasing one, Dr. Pack recommends checking your blood pressure within two hours of waking up.

“If your blood pressure is controlled at that time of day, it is usually controlled for the rest of the day,” he said.

As for frequency, Dr. Pack recommends checking it daily for about two weeks to get a sense of what your average blood pressure is.

“If well controlled, then measuring your blood pressure at home about monthly is usually enough. And, it’s always important to keep a blood pressure log to share and compare,” he said.

The final word….

“Although I see the point of this article, I think it goes too far in its conclusions, because the subtle message is that home blood pressure monitoring is not useful and should not be used. Quite the contrary, there are recent guidelines that strongly suggest that home blood pressure monitoring is essential in assisting physicians in making a diagnosis and in guiding therapy. The trick is to understand that these machines are not perfect, which needs to be considered,” said Dr. Pack.

“Just remember that, if there’s disagreement in the measurement, it would be worth getting your device calibrated,” he added.