Hypertension can be detected in multiple areas throughout the body, with the best indicator being a reading of the central aortic pressure. This term refers to the pressure exerted by the blood within the aorta, the body's largest artery that extends out from the heart. Blood pressure varies throughout the body, and a reading of peripheral blood pressure in the arms may not be the same as a reading close to the heart. Hypertension may be present in one part of the body, but not the other.
According to two major hypertension studies, the Strong Heart Study and the CAFE study, central aortic pressure is a stronger indicator of cardiovascular disease than peripheral pressure. The studies demonstrated that the risk for cardiovascular disease increased by 11 percent for every 10 mm Hg rise in central aortic pressure, and that brachial pressure readings (from a major artery in the arm, traditionally used to detect blood pressure) were not significant predictors.
Traditionally, blood pressure is measured with a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff over top the brachial artery in the arm, giving out a peripheral pressure reading. Until recently, looking at central aortic pressure required a catheter, a type of tube, to be inserted into the heart, but recent advancements have led to the development of non-invasive detection methods. These new methods require a device to record pulse waves, which are emitted by the stretching of the aorta as the heart beats. The device reads these pulse waves on the person's wrist. From these readings, an accurate estimation can be made on the person's central aortic pressure.
Ask your doctor if you've had you central aortic pressure measured, even if you've had the blood pressure in your arm checked. The difference between central aortic pressure and peripheral pressure is significant, and knowing the former could help diagnose the potential for cardiovascular disease.