We studied 56 patients with essential hypertension to determine whether responses to standardized laboratory mental and physical challenges accurately reflect blood pressure variability during routine daily activities. Four activities were performed in the laboratory: mental arithmetic, a reaction time test, isometric exercise, and submaximal bicycle exercise. Blood pressure was measured directly from a brachial artery catheter. We then recorded intra-arterial ambulatory blood pressure away from hospital over 24 h. A frequency histogram was constructed from all cardiac cycles when subjects were awake. Variability of ambulatory blood pressure was defined as the standard deviation about the mean waking value. The increase in mean arterial pressure (MAP) during each of these four challenges correlated significantly with the variability of mean arterial pressure (highest correlation: reaction time test, r=0.53, P< 0.00001; lowest correlation: mental arithmetic, r=0.26, P< 0.03), and five subjects who were highly reactive to all four challenges also demonstrated increased blood pressure variability. We therefore conclude that these commonly used laboratory tests can give some information about the behaviour of blood pressure in daily life in some subjects, but overall the variance in blood pressure variability that can be accounted for by the pressor esponse to these standardized challenges is low.
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