Giving patients responsibility for checking their own blood pressure has been shown to improve their condition.
The blood pressure of those who used a new self-monitoring system at home dropped further than those who did not use it, researchers at Edinburgh University found.
The portable “telemonitoring” system allows people to record and send blood pressure readings directly to medical staff.
Doctors and nurses then check the figures and, if necessary, contact the patient to discuss their health and medication.
Telemonitoring was shown to encourage doctors to prescribe and patients to accept more prescriptions of anti-high blood pressure drugs, thereby reducing patients’ blood pressure.
Every year high blood pressure leads to more than seven million premature deaths across the globe through heart disease and stroke, experts say.
In the UK there are around 62,000 unnecessary deaths from stroke and heart because of poor blood pressure control.
Around 400 people aged 29-95 took part in the six-month trial. Half of them received telemonitoring while the remainder were given normal blood pressure care through their local GP surgery.
Experts say that despite the availability of effective drugs, controlling high blood pressure in health centres and GP practices is poor because of infrequent monitoring and reluctance by doctors to increase medication. Often patients do not take their drugs properly.
But using telemonitoring had little impact on people’s lifestyle, such as their salt consumption level or weight management, scientists found.
Professor Brian McKinstry, from Edinburgh University’s Centre for Population Health Sciences, said: “We found that the use of supported telemonitoring in patients who manage their high blood pressure at home produces important reductions in blood pressure.
“We believe that telemonitoring has the potential to be implemented in many healthcare settings. Before this happens, however, we would recommend testing it out on a much larger scale so that we can see that the reduction in blood pressure over six months can be achieved in the longer term and that it is cost-effective.”
The study was supported by Bupa Foundation, the Chief Scientist Office Scotland, the High Blood Pressure Foundation and NHS Lothian.
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