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High blood pressure is a serious health risk that opens people up to heart attacks and heart disease, strokes, diabetes and other illnesses, but is medication the answer? If you’re among the one in three people with hypertension, it’s important to treat it. But how do you know for sure?

What is hypertension?

High blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) occurs when the force of blood pushing against the walls of blood vessels or arteries is consistently too high. In order to survive and function properly, your tissues and organs need the oxygenated blood that your circulatory system carries throughout the body. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped blood vessels, which include arteries, veins and capillaries. This pressure — blood pressure — is the result of two forces: The first force (systolic pressure) occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system. The second force (diastolic pressure) is created as the heart rests between heart beats. (These two forces are each represented by numbers in a blood pressure reading.)

Why does it matter?

You may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure could be quietly causing damage that can threaten your health. The best prevention is knowing your numbers and making changes that matter in order to prevent and manage high blood pressure.

What is ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM)?

In the United States, it is now recommended that prior to making a new diagnosis of hypertension (and going on medication), out-of-office BP measurements should be obtained, with ABPM being the preferred
method. ABPM is a method of obtaining BP readings over a 24 hour period, while a patient goes about his or her daily routine outside of the doctor’s office. APBM devices are used to measure ambulatory blood pressure. ABPM devices are small digital blood pressure machines that are attached to a belt around your body which is connected to a cuff around your upper arm.

Many studies have confirmed that ABPM better represents a patient’s typical or “true” BP and better predicts cardiovascular and other health risks.

Can I get ABPM at the UNC Family Medicine Center?

UNC Family Medicine offers 24 hour ambulatory BP monitoring to patients based on referrals to rule-out suspicions of white-coat hypertension. We accept referrals for established Family Medicine Center (FMC) patients, as well as from clinicians outside of FMC. This requires two short clinic visits, about 24 hours apart. If you would like to make an appointment to discuss ABPM with your primary care provider, call us at 984-974-0210 to make an appointment.