How To Get the Best Blood Pressure Reading
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is the leading cause of death worldwide and the second-leading cause of preventable death in the United States (cigarette smoking is the main cause). The disease, now thought to affect 46 percent of adult Americans, can lead to both chronic and deadly diseases including heart disease, strokes, blood clots, kidney disease, cognitive impairment, and heart attacks. Often called the “silent killer,” it has no symptoms, which is why we doctors put so much emphasis on having your blood pressure checked regularly.
Last year, a report from the American Heart Association (AHA) and 10 other groups, called the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial, or SPRINT, lowered the blood pressure guidelines from 140/90 to 130/80. The report raised quite a bit of controversy, even within the medical community. Some questioned the methodology of the study, others challenged its conclusions.
Regardless, the primary care doctors at Cohen Associates in Delray Beach, Florida hope you understand that the higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of suffering hypertension-related diseases. Because we are intimately familiar with your medical history, we will be able to evaluate your blood pressure readings in conjunction with other risk factors you may have. This enables us to design an approach to treating hypertension that is unique to you.
For the most accurate blood pressure reading
One of the problems with the new guidelines that many have complained of is the fact that blood pressure varies throughout the day, sometimes significantly. This is partly due to the issue of so-called “white coat hypertension,” in which a medical setting sometimes produces numbers higher than under other conditions. As discussed below, other factors can also influence the accuracy of the test. The best way to combat this problem is to measure blood pressure both in our offices as well as at home.
Patients who are rushing to make their appointment or who are concerned about what we will find during an examination may have higher blood pressure than they normally would. That’s why we will take steps to make sure you get the most accurate reading possible, and often retake blood pressure more than once while you are here. If necessary, we will also teach you how to use a blood pressure monitor at home, in order to get a reading in a more relaxed setting.
Wherever you have your blood pressure taken, follow these guidelines to receive the best results.
- Whether at home or in our office, take five to 15 minutes to relax beforehand to allow your blood pressure to stabilize.
- Empty your bladder. A full bladder can raise blood pressure by as much as 15 points.
- Sit up straight, keep your feet flat on the floor, and don’t cross your legs.
- Don’t talk, which can raise the blood pressure reading by 10 points.
- Don’t consume caffeine or smoke for at least 30 minutes before having your blood pressure taken.
- Do not perform a strenuous exercise for at least an hour before your reading.
- Ensure the sphygmomanometer (blood pressure measuring device) is placed on your bare arm, not over clothing.
- The arm on which you’re taking the reading should be at heart level, parallel to the ground, with the elbow slightly flexed.
- Take two readings at least five minutes apart, once in each arm.
If your blood pressure is consistently elevated, before turning to medication will recommend assorted relaxation techniques, and various dietary and exercise regimens to ensure your blood pressure stays within the healthy range. This includes a diet low in fats and salt and high in fruits and vegetables.
If you are unsure about any of these techniques, be sure to discuss them with us. We can help you learn the correct ways to measure your blood pressure to ensure the most accurate results.