Take blood pressure readings lying down

People with normal blood pressure while sitting, but with high blood pressure while lying supine, have an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure or premature death, according to study results shared at the American Heart Association’s Hypertension Scientific Sessions held recently.

“Cardiovascular disease risk may be missed if blood pressure is not measured also while lying supine,” the lead author said. To find out if body position while taking blood pressure has any bearing on heart health risks, researchers examined health data for 11,369 adults, with an average age 54, of which 56 per cent were women. People with a history of heart disease, heart failure or stroke were excluded.

At enrolment, their blood pressure was taken while seated and lying down. Participants were followed for an average of 25 to 28 years. As many as 16 per cent of the participants who did not have high blood pressure while seated had high blood pressure while lying flat on their backs, while 74 per cent had high blood pressure seated and lying down.

Those who had high blood pressure while both seated and supine had a 1.6 times higher risk of developing coronary heart disease; a 1.83 times higher risk of developing heart failure; a 1.86 times higher risk of stroke; a 1.43 times higher risk of overall premature death; and a 2.18 times higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease compared with those without hypertension in both positions.

Surprisingly, those who had high blood pressure while supine but not while seated had similar elevated risks as those who had high blood pressure while both seated and supine. The elevated risk did not differ based on the type of blood pressure medication used by the participants. “Our findings suggest people with known risk factors for heart disease and stroke may benefit from having their blood pressure checked while lying flat on their backs,” the study commented.