Volume 4, Issue 1
January 6, 2011

Is there a better way to
check your blood pressure?

We all know that blood pressure is important. Even mild elevations of blood pressure increase your risk of strokes and heart attacks. Studies show that in order to keep your risk at a minimum level, you need to keep your systolic (the high number) blood pressure below 115. Unfortunately, when your doctor takes your blood pressure, it’s probably inaccurate. But that’s not the worst news for your doctor. There’s new evidence that the current method for monitoring your blood pressure and its impact on your health may not be the most effective.

Researchers at the Division of Cardiology at the Cornell University in New York have been studying the measurement of central aortic blood pressure as opposed to brachial blood pressure.  Brachial blood pressure refers to the brachial artery in the arm. Measuring the brachial blood pressure uses a pressure cuff around the upper arm. This is the standard way to measure blood pressure. But central aortic blood pressure is different.

Central aortic pressure refers to the pressure in the aorta as it comes off the heart. In the past, in order to measure central pressure, your doctor had to place a catheter into the aorta. But now, new technology makes it easy to measure central aortic pressure. All your doctor needs is a device that looks like a blood pressure cuff. He attaches it to your wrist and connects it to a computer. This device makes it possible to easily determine the central aortic pressure in a person in less than five minutes. And here's why that's important.

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Central systolic pressure readings are often very different from the brachial pressure readings. This is because of pulse waves.  As the blood comes out of the heart and pulses down an artery, it will eventually hit an area where the artery splits. When it hits this area, some of the blood will bounce back in the opposite direction, creating an opposing pulse wave. This opposing wave influences the pressure in the artery. And since the aorta and the brachial artery have different anatomies, the reflecting pulse waves are also going to be different. This causes the pressures to be different.

The other factor is the stiffness of the arteries. As we age, our arteries stiffen and develop more plaque. This will cause the rebounding pulse wave to have an even greater effect.

Why is the aortic pressure more accurate? The aorta is closer to the heart and the brain. So the researchers believed that the pressure in this area would better represent the load imposed on the coronary and cerebral arteries than the brachial pressure does. If this is true, the central aortic pressure would be a much better indicator of heart attack and stroke risk than the traditional brachial pressure. And that’s just what they found.

They studied a population consisting of 3,520 Native Americans. They then used ultrasound technology to determine how thick their carotid arteries were, and how much plaque they had. They measured the central aortic pressure with the new wrist cuff. And they measured the brachial pressure using the standard blood pressure cuff. Then they looked to see whether the central pressure readings were more accurate at predicting a stroke or a heart attack than the brachial readings.

They found that the central aortic pressure was able to predict cardiovascular events more strongly than brachial pressure. They also found that the central pressure correlated about 15% better with carotid artery thickness and plaque formation than did the brachial pressure.

I’ve been using this new blood pressure measuring technology in the clinic for over a year now. I can tell you that it definitely gives much more valuable information than does the standard way of measuring blood pressure. I also have found that it’s a better indicator of the positive effects of natural therapies for blood pressure than is the standard cuff method. For doctors, the name of the device we use is the BPro, with the A-Pulse CASP software. You can learn more about it at http://www.healthstats.com/en.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

REF: Roman MJ, Devereux RB, Kizer JR, Lee ET, Galloway JMCentral pressure more strongly relates to vascular disease and outcome than does brachial pressure: the Strong Heart Study. Hypertension. 2007 July;50(1):197-203. Epub, 2007 May 7.

Copyright 2011 Soundview Publishing, LLC

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