Your blood pressure can tell a lot about your cardiovascular health, but blood pressure measurements taken in a doctor’s office aren’t always accurate. It’s normal to feel a little anxious during a medical visit, and that anxiety can temporarily increase your blood pressure, resulting in inconsistent readings. This effect referred to as “white coat hypertension” or “white coat syndrome,” is very common: your blood pressure seems to spike at the doctor’s office.
Another option is to have your blood pressure monitored over a longer period of time — and in the comfort of your own home — with a device called an ambulatory blood pressure monitor (ABPM).
An ambulatory blood pressure monitor operates just like the blood pressure cuff used by your doctor, but it takes readings at regular intervals throughout the day. These repeated measurements provide much better accuracy, giving your cardiologist reliable data to use in evaluating your heart health.
The ABPM device consists of a cuff very similar to the one used by your doctor and a recording device that attaches to your belt or waistband. Typically, an ABPM will take a reading every 15 to 30 minutes throughout the day, measuring your blood pressure during a variety of normal activities. And it continues to function while you sleep, recording valuable information about any abnormal changes in your blood pressure during the night.
Most patients need to wear an ABPM for only 24 hours in order to gather enough data. A full day’s series of readings can help your cardiologist determine whether you have hypertension or another cardiovascular issue. An ABPM can also be used to evaluate the effectiveness of certain medications and treatment plans.