High nighttime blood pressure

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: September 22nd, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

The risks that high blood pressure poses to heart health are well-known.

And most of the time, conclusions about a patient’s propensity for hypertension are drawn from pressure readings taken during the day, at the doctor’s office. But recent research indicates that nighttime high blood pressure can be an indicator for the risk of one of the most common and costly diseases of the heart: congestive heart failure.

Swedish doctors tracked almost one-thousand elderly male patients for a span of years between 1990 and 2002. None of the patients was diagnosed with congestive heart failure at the onset of the study. Researchers used remote equipment to get a true measurement of patients’ blood pressure away from the doctor’s office. Blood pressure readings were automatically taken every twenty or thirty minutes during the day, and every twenty to sixty overnight. The blood pressure readings gleaned from these twenty-four hour sessions were then analyzed as possible harbingers of future congestive heart failure.

The analysis showed that a rise in nighttime blood pressure of only nine millimeters of mercury, along with the phenomenon of “nondipping” blood pressure… blood pressure that’s as high at night as it is by day… was directly associated with an increased risk of eventual congestive heart failure.

So while measurements taken at the doctor’s office are still important, nighttime pressures can also pinpoint hidden dangers to the heart that might not be evident by day, when readings may be normal.