Mainstream doctors are quick to prescribe drugs to bring high blood pressure down.
They may put you on one, two or even three of Big Pharma’s drugs. They include diuretics, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers.
These drugs have serious side effects. I’m talking about things like edema, dizziness, nose bleeds, rash and hearing loss. They can lead to cardiac failure, heart attack, depression, colitis, and arthritis pain.
It’s bad enough risking those side effects if you have to. But your doctor may be giving you these pills for NO good reason. You might not have high blood pressure at all.
Let me explain…
Hypertension means your blood pressure measures more than 140/90 mmHg. The first number is the systolic pressure. It measures the pressure in your blood vessels while your heart is contracting. The second number is diastolic pressure. It measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats when your heart is relaxed.
But how accurate is your doctor’s measure of that pressure?
In a report from Kaiser Permanente, a 72-year-old woman was told by her doctor’s office that her pressure measured 150/70 mmHg. She had no history of high blood pressure. Researchers found that the doctor’s staff made multiple mistakes in taking her blood pressure. Her real pressure was closer to a healthy 128/64 mmHg. But based on her office reading her doctor might have given her a wrong diagnosis. And she might have been given unneeded drugs.1
We’ve been using the same method to measure blood pressure for over a hundred years. A cuff measures blood pressure in your arm. But it’s much more accurate to measure what is called “central aortic blood pressure (CABP).” It measures pressure right at your aorta. But that can only be done with an invasive procedure.
A major study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology compared these two measures. It used data from over 2,500 people. It compared their arm cuff readings with CABP.
The results found that cuffs were reasonably accurate in people who had blood pressure lower than 120/80 or higher than 160/100. But for everyone else — most people — the accuracy of the cuff dropped dramatically to as low as 50%.2
And your home BP machine is no more reliable. A recent study found that up to 32% of readings from these machines can be off by more than 5 points.
Most inaccuracies in blood pressure measures come from human error. Nurses, health aides and even doctors are often rushed and take shortcuts. They don’t follow the rules for taking a proper blood pressure reading.
A brand new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association proved it. It shows when proper guidelines are followed; systolic readings can drop on average 12.7 mmHg. But they can swing as much as 46 points lower or 20 points higher compared to the reading you get in most doctors’ offices.
And following the guidelines can drop diastolic readings by an average of 12.0 mmHg. But diastolic readings can swing as much as 34 points lower to 10 points higher than in your doctor’s office.3
In other words, the blood pressure readings you are getting are probably not very accurate. When anyone takes your pressure make sure they follow these guidelines.
Blood Pressure Guidelines
When getting your blood pressure taken you should:
- Be sitting upright in a chair with a back support
- Have your feet planted on the floor
- Have an empty bladder
- Sit quietly for 3 to 5 minutes before starting
- Keep your legs uncrossed for at least five minutes before starting
- Be wearing no restrictive clothing
- Eliminate caffeine, exercise, and tobacco for at least 30 minutes prior to testing
- Use a special wide cuff if your arm is fat or very muscular
- Place the cuff on your bare arm, not over clothing.
- Place the cuff one inch above the bend in the elbow
- Keep the cuff level with your heart, with your arm supported on a table or other surface
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1 Handler J. The Importance of Accurate Blood Pressure Measurement. The Permanente Journal. 2009.
2 Picone DS., et al. “Accuracy of Cuff-Measured Blood Pressure.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2017.
3 Agarwal R. “Implications of Blood Pressure Measurement Technique for Implementation of Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT).” Journal of the American Heart Association. 2017.