NIH-supported Research Helps Shape the Future of Blood Pressure Measurement

This story was published on May 15, 2020 by the NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and features the work of ECE Associate Professor Omer Inan

It’s the drill at the start of virtually every doctor or hospital visit: having your blood pressure measured. A technician straps a cuff to your upper arm and tightly inflates it. The beeps begin as a machine generates numbers. The cuff slowly deflates. The tech announces the all-important readings.

For some, the experience can be unsettling—not simply because of increased pressure on the arm, but because of the nervous anticipation of what the numbers will tell.

Yet for more than a century, this bulky arm-cuff device—formally known as a sphygmomanometer—has been the gold standard for detecting hypertension, a treatable disease that affects half of the adult population in the United States and is the leading risk factor for stroke and heart disease.

But things are changing—and fast.

Researchers supported by the NIH are helping develop new and improved monitoring devices in a stepped-up effort to stem the epidemic rates of uncontrolled hypertension. They include a new wave of electronics—from skin patches to smartwatches—that can easily be used at home. And that’s good news, as recent studies show some of these devices can provide more reliable and informative readings than those taken in clinics and help significantly reduce a person’s chances of stroke and heart disease.

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