By Dr. Dave Hnida
(CBS Denver) – So when I was checking a patient’s blood pressure the other day, the patient would not stop chatting. And that was a problem.
I mean, I like a good conversation when someone comes in, but there are times when opening your mouth during a doctor’s visit is not such a good idea. Such as when you’re having your blood pressure checked. The simple act of yak can raise your blood pressure by 10 points. Artificially.
And that means you or us may think your blood pressure is high, when it’s really not.
In fact, there are a number of things that can make the numbers zoom a bit, and put you at risk for a false diagnosis of hypertension.
According to the American Heart Association says it’s not only talking, but simple things like crossing your legs, or having a full bladder that are things which can influence what the cuff has to say.
Plus, it’s not just the doctor’s office that is the location of a bad reading. If you check the numbers at home and don’t do it by the book, you may think you’ve got a problem.
The AHA says there are seven common culprits that can make your blood pressure reading more than a little off:
- Having a full bladder can add 10 to 15 points to a blood pressure reading. Always try to use the bathroom before getting a reading.
- Poor support for your feet or back while seated can raise your blood pressure reading by 6 to 10 points. You should sit in a chair with your back supported and feet flat on the floor or a footstool.
- Crossing your legs can add 2 to 8 points to your reading.
- If your arm hangs by your side or you must hold it up while getting a reading, your blood pressure numbers may be 10 points higher than the actual figure.
- Your arm should be on a chair or counter so that the blood pressure cuff is level with your heart. (And make sure that arm is supported! If you are holding it up, the muscles in your arm squeeze and constrict the vessels).
- Having the cuff placed over clothing can add 5 to 50 points to your reading. The cuff should be on a bare arm.
- A too-small cuff can add 2 to 10 points to a reading.
- Talking can add 10 points to your reading. Remain still and silent while your blood pressure is taken.
A few other quick points.
We used to say 140/90 was the upper limit of normal. Now we realize that a range around 120/80 is safer for your heart and blood vessels.
Also be sure to keep a log of your blood pressure readings, taken during the same time of day, so you can bring the list of numbers to your next office visit.
Sometimes we don’t also follow the tips from the Heart Association in the office. Make sure the doctor or staff uses proper techniques as well. In this case, it is OK to speak up and talk!
Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida.
[H/T CBS Denver]