Gadgets to Help Prevent a Stroke

At home gadgets are emerging as better way to approach stroke prevention. Self-administered at-home pulse and blood pressure monitors provide enhanced techniques for those at risk of stroke. And, because you can use these gadgets frequently at your own home, you can learn to work with your doctor to stay on top of the root causes of stroke before it is too late.

For years, patients who live with diabetes have been able to self-monitor by using at-home glucose measurements to better optimize blood sugar control.

This capability has been one of the factors that has improved diabetes outcomes. Are stroke patients ready for the same tools? Or are these at-home tests more of a burden?


At home self-monitoring of your heart rhythm using a simple process called pulse palpitation has been found to help in the detection of atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm that may cause a stroke. Pulse palpitation is the use of your own fingers to sense your pulse in your wrist- no gadgets needed. One study showed that 68% of elderly patients learned to effectively monitor their own pulse rate to a degree that could accurately identify certain abnormalities.

A number of heart rhythm irregularities occur only intermittently, rather than all the time. Frequent, at-home self-monitoring can allow you to detect an arrhythmia that wasn't acting up while you were at the doctor's office.

Pulse Detection Electronic Devices

Additionally, new devices could make at-home heart rhythm recognition even simpler by electronically checking the pulse, rather than depending too heavily on a patient’s abilities or judgment.

Blood Pressure

Prolonged high blood pressure is hypertension, which contributes to the development of heart disease and cerebrovascular disease, both major stroke risks.

Studies show that patients who learn to measure their own blood pressure at home are able to obtain more accurate blood pressure readings because frequent measurements reflect a more realistic representation of actual blood pressure values throughout the day.

An article in The Journal of the American Medical Association reports that hypertensive patients who measure their own blood pressure at home and follow a 'recipe' to adjust anti-hypertension medications achieve healthier blood pressure than hypertensive patients who are managed only when health care providers see them in person. 

Patient Empowerment

Self-monitoring and self-directed adjustment of medications can be a great advantage for those who have the time, energy and resources. Regular, at-home monitoring can really give you the advantage of getting a more realistic reading of your blood pressure and heart rhythm throughout the day. Blood pressure and pulse rates fluctuate in response to factors such as the time of day, sleep, food, beverages, medications, and mood. Home monitoring also serves to lessen unusual circumstances, such as the aberrantly raised blood pressure associated with ‘white coat syndrome’ of some patients. The at-home approach to monitoring and medicine adjustment can help provide tailor-made individualization of medication doses.

It is also interesting for many patients to observe changes in blood pressure or pulse throughout the day and to be able to discern which environmental factors and lifestyle factors play a role in altering blood pressure and pulse.

However, at-home monitoring is not for everybody. Some patients can't remember the instructions or would prefer not to have as much personal responsibility for managing complicated results and medication doses. Some people prefer to separate the medical office from their leisure time- preferring not to be reminded of health issues 'all the time' at home. This is perfectly ok and not every new technology is the right fit for everyone.

Technological advances combined with increasing patient engagement in health are moving some aspects of disease care and prevention into the consumer’s hands. Studies show that, for most patients, this trend is beneficial for outcomes. A number of these at-home approaches are likely to be paired with telemedicine as a way to maintain an ongoing partnership and connection between patients and health care providers.


Willits I, Keltie K, Craig J, Sims A, WatchBP Home A for Opportunistically Detecting Atrial Fibrillation During Diagnosis and Monitoring of Hypertension: A NICE Medical Technology Guidance, Applied Health Economics and Health Policy, March 2014

Virtanen R, Kryssi V, Vasankari T, Salminen M, Kivelä SL, Airaksinen KJ, Self-detection of atrial fibrillation in an aged population - The LietoAF Study, European Journal of Preventative Cardiology, June 2013

Asayama K, Hara A, Ohkubo T, Epidemiological study and participant-level meta-analysis on ambulatory monitoring and self-measured home blood pressure, Nihon Rinsho, August 2014

McManus RJ, Mant J, Haque MS, Bray EP, Bryan S, Greenfield SM, Jones MI, Jowett S, Little P, Penaloza C, Schwartz C, Shackleford H, Shovelton C, Varghese J, Williams B, Hobbs FD, Effect of self-monitoring and medication self-titration on systolic blood pressure in hypertensive patients at high risk of cardiovascular disease: the TASMIN-SR randomized clinical trial, JAMA, August 2014

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