Is Your Blood Pressure Being Measured Correctly?
Updated blood pressure guidelines were released in Canada this year. The guidelines state that blood pressure is often not measured correctly. Blood pressure is commonly falsely increased because of this. Below I discuss some important steps to keep in mind when taking your own blood pressure or having someone else take it.
Make sure your arm is at the same level as your heart when blood pressure is taken. If your arm is too low, levels can increase by up to 10 mmHg for the top number (systolic blood pressure) and 11 mmHg for the bottom number (diastolic blood pressure). Your arm should be well supported at heart level – you should not be using your own strength to support it. Lack of support can raise blood pressure by 2 mmHg for both the systolic and diastolic levels.
Uncross your legs during blood pressure readings. Crossed legs can raise pressure by up to 10/5 mmHg (i.e. 10 systolic points and 5 diastolic points).
You should be silent when you have your blood pressure taken. Speaking during the procedure can increase pressure by 17/13 mmHg or more.
LET YOUR TEMPERATURE REGULATE
If you were just exposed to the cold, this can spike blood pressure by 11/8 mmHg or more.
Ensure that you’re using the correct cuff size. A cuff that is too small can falsely raise blood pressure. Follow the cuff size instructions for your home machine. Don’t hesitate to ask your healthcare provider if they’re using the right size.
AUTOMATED IS PREFERRED
The guidelines state that manual blood pressure (i.e. the gadget with the bulb that you pump) is still fine to use. However, blood pressure machines are preferred. Not all machine are recognized as reliable. Hypertension Canada lists some approved machines.
If blood pressure is high in the office, it’s best to have readings done at home as well. This is an important step before making a diagnosis of high blood pressure. When having blood pressure taken in an office, it’s recommended to have a machine take your blood pressure while you are sitting alone in a room. If a machine is being used by your healthcare provider, two or more readings should be done in one appointment. If a manual device is being used, at least 3 readings should be done in one appointment.
MORE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AT-HOME MEASUREMENTS
Here are some rules listed in the guidelines that you may be forgetting about:
– You should take your blood pressure on your non-dominant arm. If the top number is different between your two arms by more than 10 mmHg, then you should use the arm that gets the higher number.
– Sit for 5 minutes before taking your pressure.
– Your arm should be bare.
– Do measurements before breakfast and again two hours after dinner. Ideally, 2 measurements should be done in the morning and two in the evening for seven days.
– No caffeine or cigarettes for 60 minutes before readings and no exercise for 30 minutes before.
WHAT DO THE RESULTS MEAN?
The guidelines listed some general cut-offs for high blood pressure. The cut-offs may differ depending on your unique health status. Talk to your family doctor and naturopath for more information.
– When using a machine: 135/85 mmHg or more is considered high.
– When using a manual device: 140/90 mmHg or more is high (130/85 mmHg is high-normal).
– When using a home monitor: 135/85 mmHg or more is high (remember, this is an average of several days of readings).
HOW CAN I HELP?
Working with both your family doctor and a naturopathic doctor can give you more options for keeping your blood pressure under control. Click below to book an appointment or free 15-minute consult to learn more.
Dr. Samantha Dass is currently a naturopathic doctor working at Holland Landing Health Centre in East Gwillimbury, Ontario, which services Holland Landing, Newmarket, Aurora, Keswick and Bradford areas. If you are interested in naturopathic services please contact Holland Landing Health Centre at 905-853-7900 or via e-mail at [email protected]