A new study has suggested that doctors have been measuring blood pressure wrongly and may miss certain health complications.
The latest research was presented at the American Heart Association’s hypertension scientific session 2023 in Boston on September 7.
The session focused on recent advances in basic and clinical research on high blood pressure and its relationship to cardiac and kidney disease, stroke, obesity, and genetics.
A person is considered to have high blood pressure if their reading is 140/90mmHg or more when taken by a doctor.
The researchers working on the nearly 3-decade study looked at how blood pressure when sitting or lying down affected the risks of diseases.
The authors said they discovered that doctors may not detect certain health complications if patients’ readings are only taken while sitting upright.
According to the researchers, the “autonomic nervous system regulates blood pressure in different body positions; however, gravity may cause blood to pool when seated or upright, and the body is sometimes unable to properly regulate blood pressure during lying, seated and standing positions”.
To conduct their findings, the scientists took the blood pressure of 15,972 people while lying down or sitting up.
The participants’ health was then followed for an average of 25 to 28 years, while the recent data was collected between 2011 and 2013.
The US researchers said they discovered that 16 percent of people who did not have high blood pressure when seated were found to have it when lying down.
The study added that three in four participants (74%) who did have high blood pressure while both seated and lying down showed a 1.6 times higher risk for future heart failure, a 1.86 times higher risk for stroke, a 1.43 times higher risk for premature death, and a 2.18 times higher risk for coronary heart disease.
Participants who had high BP while supine but not while seated had similar elevated risks as those who had high blood pressure while both seated and supine.
The research added that differences in blood pressure medication use did not affect these elevated risks in either group.
The authors also called on doctors to begin to take two readings — while patients are sitting upright and lying down.
Duc M. Giao, a researcher at Harvard Medical School who is the lead author said: “If blood pressure is only measured while people are seated upright, cardiovascular disease risk may be missed if not measured also while they are lying supine on their backs.
“Our findings suggest people with known risk factors for heart disease and stroke may benefit from having their blood pressure checked while lying flat on their backs.”