Accurate Blood Pressure Readings

A 2016 study from the Journal of Clinical Hypertension found that in-office blood pressure measurements were inaccurate more often than not, either causing the misdiagnosis of hypertension (resulting in the inappropriate administration of medication) or causing patients at risk for stroke and heart events to go without necessary intervention or treatment.

The Utah Million Hearts Coalition recently announced a new website, CheckMyPressure.org,  which is designed to educate both patients and health care providers about the prevalence of inaccurate blood pressure measurements as well as correct measurement technique.

“Patients need to take their health into their own hands,” says Anni McKinnon, Utah Million Hearts Coalition member. “Learn how blood pressure should be measured, speak up when your blood pressure is not taken correctly, and assist your provider in getting an accurate measurement and subsequently an accurate diagnosis.” People can also help control their risks for cardiovascular disease by managing their weight, engaging in regular physical activity, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and not using tobacco products.

Patients can take the following steps help ensure a correct blood pressure measurement:

  1. Thirty minutes prior to taking blood pressure: do not drink caffeine or alcohol, use tobacco products, exercise, or feel stressed or anxious.
  2. Sit and relax for five minutes before taking blood pressure.
  3. Sit up straight with both feet flat on the floor and your back supported.
  4. Cuff should be the proper size and placed on your bare arm or over thin clothing.
  5. Arm should be at heart level and supported.
  6. If your reading is high, your blood pressure should be taken two more times, waiting one minute between readings.

Even when blood pressure measuring technique is correct, some patients experience a ‘white-coat effect’ and exhibit high blood pressure in a medical office. “About 30% of patients with elevated in-office blood pressure turn out to have normal out-of-office measurements,” adds McKinnon, “so home monitoring is also important in some cases.”

In 2016, the Utah Million Hearts Coalition recognized 13 Utah medical clinics for their commitment to achieving excellence in blood pressure measurement and hypertension control.  Clinics that would like additional information in applying for the award can contact Audrie Frehner at 435-986-2567 or afrehner@swuhealth.org.

The Utah Million Hearts Coalition is a community collaboration among Utah’s public health departments, local health care organizations, professional medical associations, and health-related nonprofit organizations. For more information about the coalition, visit healthinsight.org/bloodpressure

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