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Health Center Today, December 28, 2009

Hypertension Experts: Nighttime Blood Pressure an Important Predictor of Harm

By Chris DeFrancesco

Photo of Dr. William B. White

Dr. William B. White advocates the use of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring to manage hypertension.

What your blood pressure does while you sleep can be a powerful indicator of future health problems, according to hypertension experts speaking at the recent scientific sessions of the American Heart Association in Orlando, Florida.

"Elevated systolic blood pressure during sleep is an independent, powerful predictor of future cardiovascular risk," says Dr. William B. White, professor of medicine and hypertension expert in the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center. The systolic blood pressure is the blood pressure when the heart is contracting. It is typically the first value recorded, or the "top number" in a blood pressure reading.

"Nocturnal hypertension is another key reason ambulatory blood pressure monitoring can be helpful," White says. Ambulatory recording involves the wearing of a monitor cuff on the upper arm for a 24-hour period, with a microchip recording blood pressure readings.

Studies conducted during the past decade show that patients with high blood pressure during sleep are prone to excess kidney and heart disease even if the blood pressure during the daytime is relatively normal. New research is evaluating targeted therapy with ambulatory blood pressure recordings to specifically control nocturnal hypertension.

White is the senior author of the American Society of Hypertensionís official position paper on blood pressure measurement, which recommends taking readings both in and outside of the clinical environment.