Anyone who has ever been to the doctor is familiar with the routine. A nurse sticks your arm in an inflatable cuff and pumps it up. Once the blood stops flowing through your arm, the nurse releases the cuff, and the machine it is attached to beeps out two numbers, one over the over. Having a nurse take your blood pressure is so common that most people probably don't give it a thought.
Is The Reading Right?
But, just how accurate are those numbers? Is your blood pressure really 120 over 80? An article in the Washington Post examines this question. It turns out that the readings may not be as on-the-nose as you might think. In fact, research shows that up to 30% of people actually have a lower blood pressure than the
This is due to a variety of factors. One is that nurses taking blood pressure may not be doing it properly. For example, the cuff should be on your skin and not over a shirt. Next, your arm should be at heart level and supported. Your back should be upright and supported by a chair. You should not be talking and you should not have your legs crossed. Indeed, your feet need to be flat on the floor. Think back to the last time a nurse took your blood pressure. Were all these things in place? Probably not.
Is It That White Coat?
Even if the nurse has perfect technique, your blood pressure reading could still be elevated. One cause for this is the so-called "white-coat syndrome." This refers to the white that nurses and doctors used to wear. The idea is that many people get anxious in a doctor's office and this pushes their blood pressure readings
higher. Another cause for higher blood pressure could simply be your attitude. Many times patients have to sit and wait, sometimes for hours, to see their doctors. This can leave the patients frustrated and angry. You can guess what that does to your readings.
Get An Accurate Blood Pressure Measurement
Getting an accurate take on your blood pressure is critical. Please do not take this information as an excuse to not get yours checked or to dismiss an elevated reading. High blood pressure can literally kill you. At the same time, getting an accurate reading might mean not having to change your diet or go on medications.
As always, talk to your doctor before you make any medical decisions.