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Richard Wyderski, MD, FACP
Dr. Wy, why does the way my blood pressure is measured make a difference? Shouldn’t it always be normal?
Having an average resting blood pressure of less than 130/80 is very important for the diagnosis and treatment of hypertension, but we must make sure that the measurements are accurate and standardized. If we don’t, we risk both over- or undertreating the condition, and we need to avoid doing either.
First, we need to make sure our equipment has been validated as accurate. The American Medical Association helped create such a validation agency, and the automated devices that have been certified as clinically accurate can be found at www.validatebp.org. That’s important since it’s hard to get everyone to use the same measurement technique.
The American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association further define the way in which we measure blood pressure that’s just as important as having an accurate device:
Be relaxed sitting in a chair with back supported and feet on the floor for at least 5 minutes with an empty bladder and no smoking, caffeine or exercise for at least 30 minutes prior. No talking during the rest period or measurement and no clothing on the upper arm that should be relaxed and at the height of the heart.
Make sure the cuff size is correct, encircling about 80% of the upper arm, and take at least two measurements 1-2 minutes apart. Use the average of the readings.
The best evidence is that home measurements are the most reliable for the diagnosis and management of high blood pressure.
We just need to all do our part to make sure they’re accurate and reliable!
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