There is one thing that is included in almost every institution’s advice with regards to managing your high blood pressure.
However, a recent study has demonstrated that many people do this incorrectly, causing devastating effects.
Most physicians and health institutions recommend that you buy a blood pressure monitor to keep at home for measuring your blood pressure, especially if it tends to be on the high side.
After all, if you know when your blood pressure tends to increase, and you understand the activities that raise it, you are in a better position to manage it properly.
In addition, the doctor’s office reading does not always reflect your true blood pressure, as most people tend to be more anxious or more relaxed in the doctor’s office than during the rest of the day.
At the American Society for Nephrology’s annual meeting in Philadelphia that took place in November, academics presented some interesting research on home blood pressure monitors.
They recruited 210 volunteers and compared the results from their home monitors with those of a mercury sphygmomanometer in a doctor’s office taken within a few minutes.
Of the 210 systolic readings, 63 were more than five mm/Hg different, and 16 were more than 10 mm/Hg different. That is to say, 30% of the readings were more than five points wrong, and 8% were more than 10 points wrong.
Diastolic discrepancies were worse: 32% of diastolic readings were more than five points wrong, and 9% were more than 10 points wrong.
Getting the measure wrong by five points may not be a big problem, but a difference greater than 10-points is.
For example, while 125 systolic reading is on the high side of normal, a 140 reading indicates a problem that must immediately be treated.
So, what should you do to get an accurate reading at home?
If you have not bought a monitor yet, you can ask your doctor whether there are any that he or she recommends.
If you have already bought one, take it to your GP’s office the next time you visit to have your blood pressure measured. If it gives the same result as the doctor’s reading, you should continue using it. Compare it with the GP’s device at least once annually to ensure that it remains calibrated.
If it gives a different result compared to your doctor’s device, take it along again next time to check whether it is at least consistent. These devices are like scales. If it consistently measures five points too high or too low, just subtract or add those five points to make sense of the reading.
If it measures inconsistently, you can send it back to the manufacturer to be recalibrated.
The American Heart Association and Blood Pressure UK both recommend automatic/digital over manual devices, which most home users will appreciate.
They also both recommend that you use devices that fit around your upper arm, as those tend to give more accurate readings than those that read from your wrist or finger. Just make sure that the cuff size is appropriate for the size of your arm before you buy it. Kids and weightlifters may need special cuffs.
That being said, measuring your blood pressure right does you no good unless you also lower it naturally.