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Doctors Botch Blood Pressure Readings More Often Than You Thought

Blood pressure measurement is a front-line screening at almost every doctor’s appointment you go to. Based on that reading, your doctor may suggest certain medical interventions, from medications to more invasive procedures such as a catheterization in a worst-case scenario. Usually, you just trust the health professional who’s done the reading to do it correctly. But Vox reports that, too often, the very persons who are calling the shots for your health may not be reading your blood pressure correctly — including your cardiologist.

With so much riding on your blood pressure readings, it’s important not only to know what’s normal and what’s not, but to make sure your readings are done correctly when you’re at the doctor’s office. Even though it may make you uncomfortable pointing out errors in the way your reading is done, remember it’s YOUR health that’s on the line here, so if you notice that any of the following has not been done correctly, don’t be afraid to ask that it be redone, and correctly.

As the featured article points out, factors such as body position, activity, nervousness, cuff size and cuff placement can all affect your readings. The size of the cuff may change the blood pressure reading significantly. The blood pressure cuff will have an arm circumference range printed on the cuff. Using a cuff that is too small may artificially increase the systolic measurement between 10 mmHg and 40 mmHg. The cuff’s placement is important too: It should be on your bare arm, never over clothing, with the edges of the cuff aligned and positioned at heart level, approximately 1 inch above the bend in your elbow.

The proper position is to have your feet flat on the floor, back supported in a chair, legs uncrossed for at least five minutes and your arm supported while sitting. Talking to the person taking your blood pressure during the reading may increase your systolic pressure by 10 mmHg and a full bladder may increase your systolic reading by 10 mmHg. Prior to taking your blood pressure, it is important that you sit quietly for three to five minutes and do not exercise for at least 30 minutes prior to the reading.

Once you get your numbers, if your systolic pressure is higher than 120 mmHg but your diastolic pressure remains lower than 80 mmHg, then you may have an elevated blood pressure level. Even though these numbers aren’t considered high blood pressure yet, you still have a high chance of developing actual hypertension, especially if you don’t keep your health in check with healthy lifestyle and dietary habits.
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