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Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring (ABPM) is a diagnostic test to determine the presence of hypertension by taking measurements during normal daily activities, over a span of 24 consecutive hours. It helps to diagnose as well as monitor high blood pressure, usually defined as a systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or more and a diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or more.

The instrument used is a portable blood pressure machine worn as a belt, with the cuff being attached around the upper arm. All types of daily activities, including sleep, may be normally carried out while wearing this device.

Why it's done

During the ABPM, regular blood pressure readings are taken, for several reasons:

  • The normal variations in blood pressure are mirrored in this test as it takes many measurements unlike the one or two during a normal clinic visit.
  • Unexplained fainting
  • It eliminates the “white coat effect” which means that blood pressure measurements taken by a doctor in a clinic are on average 9/7 mm Hg (systolic/diastolic pressure) higher than corresponding readings obtained by a nurse or other trained practitioner in the same setting.
  • It can detect masked and sustained hypertension – when the blood pressure reading is normal in the clinic but high during normal activity, it is termed ‘masked hypertension’, whereas a persistently high blood pressure is called sustained hypertension and is associated with higher risk of heart attacks and renal injury.
  • It shows the normotensive effect of current medications, that is, the effect of medications on controlling the blood pressure throughout the day can be visualized.
  • It reveals if the blood pressure increases at night or during sleep, a phenomenon seen in some individuals, which may need an adjustment in the medical regimen.
  • It also shows the heart rate at the same time.
  • It yields the average or mean blood pressure, heart rate and a few other parameters.
  • It helps predict the chances of stroke or heart attacks.

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