Factors That Can Exaggerate Blood Pressure Readings
When you go to the doctor’s office, measuring blood pressure is one of the ways doctors can check up on your heart health. The only way to diagnose high blood pressure, or hypertension, is by a blood pressure test.
A healthy blood pressure reading is anywhere between 90/60 and 120/80. Anything 140/90 or above is considered a high blood pressure reading, which could be a diagnosis of hypertension, one of the leading causes of heart disease that can lead to heart attacks, kidney failure, stroke, and even dementia. If your blood pressure measures below 90/60, that could be an indicator of hypotension, or low blood pressure, which can result in dizziness, fainting, and long-term damage to the heart and brain.
Because of the associated risks, a higher or lower than normal blood pressure reading in a healthy adult can be alarming. But did you know there are a number of factors that can cause a temporary spike or drop in your blood pressure, leading to a false reading? Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to prepare for your test to ensure an accurate reading.
Stress and Anxiety
If you are experiencing stress immediately before or during a blood pressure test, the spike in cortisol levels will cause your heart rate to increase and could result in a higher blood pressure reading. Sometimes, just the anxiety caused by being at the doctor’s office, often referred to as white coat hypertension, can also cause your blood pressure to rise. Try to decrease stress levels by taking deep breaths before and during your test.
A Full Bladder
Having a full bladder during your blood pressure test can add up to 10 to 15 points. Be sure to use the restroom before getting your blood pressure taken to ensure you receive an accurate reading.
Crossing your legs during a blood pressure reading can raise your results by 2 to 5 points. Your nurse will usually remind you but be sure to sit with your legs uncrossed and feet flat on the ground during your blood pressure test.
Blood Pressure Cuff Placement
Most blood pressure reading errors are the result of improper sizing of the blood pressure cuff or placing the cuff over clothing. Improper placement of the cuff over clothing can cause your blood pressure measurement to increase 10 to 50 points. If the cuff is too small, it can add 2 to 10 points your reading. Be sure to roll up your sleeve for a blood pressure test and also let your doctor know if the cuff feels too tight around your arm.
Eating (Or Not Eating)
Right after eating a meal, your blood pressure will often read lower than normal because digesting food actually lowers your blood pressure. If you are taking your blood pressure at home, your doctor will usually recommend that you take your blood pressure test in the morning before eating or wait thirty minutes after a meal. Not eating enough or fasting can also cause an inaccurate reading. Your diet can play a big role in managing your high blood pressure. To exercise long-term hypertension treatment, be sure to eat whole foods that are proven to lower high blood pressure.
Alcohol, Caffeine and Tobacco
Consumption of alcohol, caffeine and tobacco cause your blood pressure to immediately rise. Avoid alcohol, caffeine and smoking at least 30 minutes before your blood pressure test to ensure an accurate reading.
Too Much Talking
Research has shown that even talking during a blood pressure test can increase your reading. Talking to your nurse or doctor during the test could raise your measurement 10 to 15 points.
Being cold can also cause your blood pressure to spike. Be aware that if you are feeling chilly at the doctor’s office during a blood pressure test, your reading may be a little higher than normal.
In order to avoid misdiagnosis of hypertension, it is important that you and your doctor are aware of the factors that could cause exaggerated blood pressure results. Learn more about blood pressure management and heart health with CVG today.