ERRORS THAT CAN CAUSE EXAGGERATED BLOOD PRESSURE READINGS

 When was the last time you measured your blood pressure? A blood pressure test is the only way to diagnose hypertension or high blood pressure to know your heart health.

BLOOD PRESSURE READINGS
If you find that your blood pressure reading is between 90/60 and 120/80, then it’s healthy. If it’s 140/90 or above, it’s high. Remember that HBP is the leading cause of heart disease and can result in severe illnesses like stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure and even dementia. Nevertheless, if the measurement of your BP goes below 90/60, watch out for hypotension or low blood pressure. This can also lead to health issues like dizziness, fainting, and long-term heart and brain damage.

Let’s look at factors that can cause a temporary spike or drop in your blood pressure and cause a false reading, which is dangerous.

Stress and Anxiety

If you experience stress just before or during a blood pressure test, it will spike your cortisol levels, causing an increase in your heart rate and hence, a higher blood pressure reading. Besides, at times, simply being in the doctor’s office can cause anxiety ( also termed white coat hypertension) which can also raise your blood pressure. Solution: Take deep breaths before and while taking the test to decrease your stress levels.

Having a Full Bladder

If your bladder is full during your blood pressure test, that will add up to 10 to 15 points. So, visit the restroom before measuring your blood pressure levels for the reading to be accurate.

Crossed Legs

If you take a blood pressure test with your legs crossed, the results may rise by 2 to 5 points.  Don’t forget to sit with your legs uncrossed and feet placed flat on the ground though your nurse will typically remind you about it.

Blood Pressure Cuff sizing and placement

Most blood pressure reading errors happen because of poorly sized blood pressure cuffs or improperly placed cuffs over the clothing. When the cuff is wrongly placed, the results can increase blood pressure measurement by 10 to 50 points. In case the cuff is too small, 2 to 10 points may be added to your reading. Make sure you roll up your sleeve and also ensure that your doctor knows that your cuff feels extremely tight around your arm.

Eating (Or Not Eating)

Taking a measurement immediately after eating makes your blood pressure reading lower than normal. This is because digesting food brings your BP low. If you are measuring your blood pressure at home, your doctor will most often  recommend you to take the test in the morning before eating or wait for 30 minutes after a meal. Eating less and fasting can also cause inaccurate reading.

Consuming Alcohol, Caffeine or Tobacco

Consuming alcohol, caffeine and tobacco will immediately push your blood pressure up. So, stay away from alcohol, smoking and caffeine at least 30 minutes prior to your blood pressure test to get an accurate reading.

Talking too much

Studies have revealed that when someone talks during a blood pressure test, it raises their reading. This means you have to chat less with your nurse or doctor during the test. Talking increases your measurement between 10 and 15 points.

Cold Temperatures

Feeling cold is enough to raise your blood pressure. Know that feeling chilly at the doctor’s office just before or during your blood pressure test can cause your BP reading to increase a little.

It would help if you did everything to avoid misdiagnosis of hypertension. So, learn from the errors and solutions above to always get accurate BP readings. It is important that both you and your doctor know the factors that could lead to exaggerated blood pressure results and work to avoid them.