Hypertension

Updated 16 October 2015

Blood pressure info on net and apps often wrong

In a study, researchers who checked YouTube videos on high blood pressure found that one-third offered 'misleading' information. Home blood pressure devices also tended to be inaccurate.

0

People who turn to the internet or iPhone apps for help in controlling their blood pressure may be led astray in some cases, two preliminary studies suggest.

In one study, researchers who did a sweep of YouTube videos on high blood pressure found that one-third offered "misleading" information. Most often, that meant the video advocated supplements or other alternative therapies that haven't been scientifically proven to lower blood pressure.

"It's quite concerning," said lead researcher Dr Nilay Kumar, who is scheduled to present the findings at the annual meeting of the American Society of Hypertension in New York City.

Misleading videos

"The videos that were misleading seemed to get a lot more hits than the videos from authoritative sources," said Kumar, a physician with the Cambridge Health Alliance in Massachusetts.

Those authoritative sources included the American Heart Association, medical universities and professional medical societies, Kumar said.

Read: Chilli helps with blood pressure

The other study, scheduled for presentation at the same meeting, looked at the accuracy of two home blood pressure devices that people connect to their iPhones. In each case, an app keeps track of their numbers and can send the information to their doctor.

Findings of study

Overall, the study found, both devices were inaccurate when compared with traditional doctor's-office measurements. Across 112 readings taken by the same person, one device gave numbers that were too high – by an average of 3 to 5 points – while the other gave numbers that were 5 points too low.

The bottom line? The study "sends a loud and clear message that such technology needs to be vetted against the standard technology before accepting these blood pressure readings at face value," said Dr Domenic Sica, president-elect of the American Society of Hypertension.

"This technology clearly needs better refinement," said Sica, who was not involved in either new study.

Heart disease and stroke

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, almost one-third of US adults have high blood pressure. But only about half of them have the condition under control.

Elevated blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, the leading causes of death in the United States.

It's important that people with high blood pressure be "self-empowered" to take part in their own care, Sica said. But they also have to be careful about their sources of information.

Since so many people get health information online, Kumar's team wanted to check the accuracy of blood pressure information on YouTube – a site that draws more than 1 billion "unique users" each month, according to the company.

The researchers searched the site using the terms "high blood pressure" and "hypertension", and ended up screening 176 videos – a small sampling of the total hits their search retrieved.

Misleading information

Overall, the majority of the videos were deemed "useful". They included information on how high blood pressure develops and how to prevent and treat it. But one-third provided misleading information, Kumar's team found.

Often, those videos focused on supplements or other therapies that aren't proven to lower blood pressure – such as L-arginine, garlic and coenzyme Q10 supplements, according to Kumar.

Many also featured ads for the products, which "suggests they were driven by financial motivations," Kumar said.

Read: Drinking bad for blood pressure

If you go online for blood pressure information, he suggested you stick with reliable sources such as the American Heart Association or the US National Library of Medicine website Medline Plus.

Sica agreed. As for iPhone blood pressure devices, he said questions remain. It's not clear, for example, how they stack up against traditional home blood pressure monitors, he noted.

Automated monitors better

But those traditional devices are not all the same, either. In general, the heart association and other groups advise people to use automated (rather than manual) monitors that have an arm cuff. Devices that take wrist or finger measurements are less reliable.

Data and conclusions presented at meetings are typically considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.


Read more:

New apps read blood alcohol levels
Lowering blood pressure with 'kidney zapping' a failure


Copyright © 2016 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

 

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Hypertension expert

Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules