If you’re one of the millions of people in the U.S. with high blood pressure, you may have heard one or two lectures from your doctor about how dangerous it can be. If left untreated, high blood pressure can have a profound negative impact on your heart; it can lead to serious issues like heart attack, heart disease, and congestive heart failure, to name a few.
However, a new study suggests that not every high blood pressure reading is cause for panic. In fact, researchers say that the trend of monitoring your blood pressure from home is actually leading consumers to go to the emergency room too much, especially when other emergency symptoms are not present.
“We encourage patients to monitor their blood pressure at home if they have been diagnosed with hypertension, but not every high blood pressure reading is an emergency,” said lead author Dr. Clare Atzema.
“Some of the increase in emergency visits is due to the aging of our population, but we suspect that recent public education campaigns recommending home blood pressure monitoring may have inadvertently contributed to the rise in visits for hypertension,” she added.
Hospital visits increase
For the purposes of the study, Atzema and her colleagues analyzed changes in the number of annual visits that Ontario emergency departments had for cases of hypertension. They found that the number of visits increased by 15,793 to 25,950 per year.
Inversely, they found that the number of patients admitted to the hospital following these visits decreased from 9.9% to 7.1%, suggesting that not every case warranted a trip to the ER.
The researchers also note that mortality incidences were very low for cases related to hypertension; they found that less than 1% of patients died within 90 days of going to the emergency room and 4.1% died within two years of their visit.
Better safe than sorry
The researchers advise consumers to go to the emergency room for blood pressure-related concerns only if a reading coincides with other emergency symptoms.
“Patients should be aware that unless their high blood pressure coincides with symptoms of medical emergency, such as chest pain, severe headache, nausea or shortness of breath, they probably do not need to visit the ER,” said Atzema.
However, she cautions that too much prudence can also be a bad thing when it comes to medical emergencies.
“We of course encourage them to follow up as soon as possible with their regular physician. If there is any doubt, come to the emergency department: we would rather have you come without an emergency than stay home with one.”