Heart disease causes hundreds of thousands of deaths annually -- can a new study on blood pressure tests guide doctors toward earlier diagnosis?
About one out of every four deaths in the U.S. each year (about 610,000) are due to heart disease. Predicting this type of ailment is obviously a big priority for the medical community, and a new long-term study sheds light on the most useful kind of blood pressure recording for this purpose.
An August 2019 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association took a 14-year-look at blood pressure measurements for 11,135 people in twelve countries throughout Asia, Europe and Latin America. It reports that blood pressure recorded over a 24-hour period predicts diseases of the heart and arterial system more accurately than blood pressure measured on one occasion.
"Although heart and vascular disease are strongly associated with blood pressure, irrespective of how it is measured, until now we did not know which type of blood pressure measurement captured risk in the most accurate way," said Dr. Gladys Maestre of the University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, who supervised the segment of the study that took place in Venezuela, according to EurekAlert. She also pointed out that, in America, the majority of health insurers will only pay for 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring for patients if blood pressure is first found to be elevated in a clinical setting, “but is suspected to be normal otherwise, or if undetected or masked hypertension is suspected.”
In Maestre’s opinion, ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is actually cost-effective, because it can allow prevention of and treatment for identified cardiovascular conditions to start earlier.
Professors Jan A. Staessen and Zhen-Yu Zhang of KU Leuven in Belgium coordinated the global study, “Association of Office and Ambulatory Blood Pressure With Mortality and Cardiovascular Outcomes,” which is notable, due to its long duration and large sample size.
The authors state, “24-hour and nighttime blood pressure may be considered optimal measurements for estimating [cardiovascular] risk, although statistically, model improvement compared with other blood pressure indexes was small.”