, Volume 5, Issue 1, pp 7-15
Date: 13 Sep 2012

Circadian Variations in Blood Pressure

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Abstract

The management of hypertensive patients usually ignores or gives little credit to the biologic rhythms inherent to the disease process and their potential clinical implications. The development of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring and the rapidly growing popularity of home blood pressure measurements by patients have now generated a series of new clinical questions that are directly linked to the chronobiology of the cardiovascular system, such as the clinical interpretation of a blunted nocturnal fall in blood pressure or the difficulty of achieving adequate blood pressure control in the morning. Today, there is growing evidence that night-time blood pressure, and particularly the absence of a decrease in sleep blood pressure, contributes to the occurrence of target organ damages, and that the early morning rise in blood pressure increases the risk of developing cardiovascular events, including stroke, perhaps independently of 24-hour blood pressure levels. On the basis of these observations, it may be necessary to reconsider the way antihypertensive drugs are prescribed in order to obtain smooth, 24-hour blood pressure control, respecting the circadian pattern of blood pressure. Several approaches exist, including the use of drugs that lower blood pressure around the clock and respect the diurnal rhythm. Preliminary studies performed with such agents have provided interesting results. However, there is a clear need for large clinical trials demonstrating the clinical superiority of this approach. In any case, a better understanding of the importance of the circadian variations of blood pressure could certainly have a major impact on our view of the therapeutic management of hypertensive patients.