Hypertension is a leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. and worldwide. Over 60 percent of people over the age of 65 have high blood pressure, and the number of people with high blood pressure is steadily increasing. Early diagnosis is the key to managing and treating hypertension before serious health problems and complications occur. At Penn, we offer the latest advancements in diagnostic procedures for patients with hypertension and associated disorders.
Typical diagnostic procedures and tests include:
- Physical examination
- Blood tests
- Testing to check renin activity and aldosterone levels
Other diagnostic testing such as ambulatory blood pressure monitoring and non-invasive vascular studies may also be done to measure blood pressure and assess cardiovascular health.
Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring
Blood pressure monitoring is extremely important in detecting hypertension. Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is a valuable diagnostic tool that looks at the way the circulation functions, and can be used to analyze a patient's response to treatment. Findings can also be used in research to predict future outcomes for patients.
During this test, a small blood pressure machine is attached with a belt around the body and a cuff is placed around the arm for 24-hours to measure blood pressure while a patient goes about their daily life. The test obtains a 24-hour record of a patient's blood pressure, and can detect "white coat" hypertension, a phenomenon that occurs when a patient experiences high blood pressure that appears more elevated during clinical visits.
Non-invasive Vascular Studies
Several non-invasive vascular studies may be done to measure various aspects of blood vessel function and how that relates to consequences of hypertension, including kidney disease progression, heart failure, stroke and peripheral artery disease. These procedures include:
- Central pressure measurements
- Aortic augmentation index
- Measurement of arterial stiffness using pulse wave velocity
These three procedures measure the velocity at which pulse waves travel in the circulation, and how the pulse waveform changes as it leaves the heart. These tests help assess cardiovascular health and aid in examining the effects of different types of treatments.