Does Your Doctor Know Your Real Blood Pressure?

Tips On How To Be In Better Control of Your Blood Pressure Even When You Go to the Doctor

Things You Should be Aware of While Testing Your Blood Pressure

Have you ever thought about the fact your blood pressure can vary significantly during the day depending on your level of stress? And stressors can come in many forms, such as…

  • Stimulants like a cup of coffee, a can of Mountain Dew, the latest “power drink” or a cigarette
  • Maybe you worked all day before your appointment
  • Or you failed to have a restful night’s sleep because you were a bit anxious about the appointment
  • Someone cut you off in traffic, or you were late because of road construction
  • Your boss just told you you’re working Saturday (and you were planning to go fishing)

And what if the person taking your blood pressure is lazy, or hasn’t the necessary training to understand the importance of being accurate, or worse, just doesn’t really care. Think this can’t happen? It certainly can (and does). When I was finishing up my nurse’s training, I was assigned to shadow the nurse in an OB/GYN clinic. Specifically I was there to learn more about prenatal care. I watched the LPN take one blood pressure after another as these pregnant women came in for their appointments. The blood pressures she wrote down didn’t vary 10 points in the readings. For this to happen with 16 patients is a statistical anomaly. In other words, the likelihood of all these readings being accurate is very slim.

Because these readings were also in the “normal” range, they were unlikely to be checked by the doctor. And in many health care settings, even abnormal readings are rarely rechecked unless there is another reason. This means you could have a blood pressure reading high enough for your doctor to prescribe a medication that either isn’t accurate or isn’t normal for you in a less stressful situation.

So what can you do about it?

6 Ways You Can Be in Better Control of Your Blood Pressure

1. Listen to classical music just before going into your doctors appointment. One study showed just 3 minutes of classical music will lower your blood pressure to pre-stress levels (add some deep breathing and it will plummet even faster). If you happen to have a portable CD or digital music player, take your tunes in with you

2. Meditate for a few minutes before your appointment taking deep slow breaths

3. Take a leisurely walk

4. Use visual imagery – imagine yourself sitting in a high mountain meadow of wild flowers on the side of pristine lake surrounded by snow-covered peaks. Now change the season to winter where you’re enveloped with absolute quiet.

5. Ask to sit in a regular chair in the exam room when you have your blood pressure taken

6. And most important of all – know your normal everyday blood pressure..

How To Know More About Your Blood Pressure Than Your Doctor

Go to your local pharmacist and have them recommend the right size blood pressure cuff for you. Yes size matters. If your arm is small, you need a small cuff. The same applies if your arm is larger than normal. Tell them you want to monitor your own blood pressure at home. Avoid cheap equipment, especially if you decide to purchase an electronic blood pressure cuff. In my experience most of the cheaper models are unreliable. Remember, you want accuracy. After all, it’s your health. Right?

It’s really not too difficult to take your own blood pressure with a manual cuff, but if you just feel uncomfortable or prefer to use an electronic model, I suggest you check out Omron Healthcare Automatic Blood Pressure Monitor with ComFit Cuff.

However you decide to do it, blood pressure is composed of 2 numbers, the systolic and the diastolic. The systolic reading is the pressure created against the artery walls when your heart beats. The diastolic is the resting pressure between beats. Although blood pressure is generally considered normal in a 10-point range either side of 120/80, everyone is different. So it’s important to know your normal range.

Once you’ve decided on a machine, make a commitment to take your own blood pressure regularly at home. Choose a quiet time, preferably the same time each day you take it. Be sure you’re rested and haven’t had any strenuous exercise, stimulants or depressants like alcohol for at least 30-60 minutes. Take two or three readings over about 15 minutes and record them in a journal with the date. Average the results of readings over two or three days a week. You’ll then know your real resting blood pressure. The next time you visit your doctor, bring along your journal for comparison.

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