Is Your Blood Pressure Check Missing Something Vital?

High blood pressure significantly increases the likelihood of heart disease and premature death. However, many medical professionals are skipping an important step when measuring blood pressure, which could provide vital information on the state of your heart health. According to researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, the most accurate method for measuring blood pressure involves taking readings from both arms. Unfortunately, most medical professionals only take a blood pressure reading from one side.

The importance of interarm pressure

If there is a significant difference in blood pressure between your arms (known as interarm pressure), it could indicate an increased risk of heart problems. A study involving 3,000 people over the age of 40 from the Framingham Heart Study aimed to investigate this. Although all participants were initially considered heart-healthy, the researchers discovered that those with a greater interarm systolic blood pressure difference were at much higher risk for future heart problems than those with a difference of less than 10 mm Hg between arms.

Lead researcher Dr. Ido Weinberg said, “In this large prospective, community-based cohort of middle-aged men and women free of cardiovascular disease, an increased interarm systolic blood pressure difference was found to be present in nearly 10 percent of individuals and is associated with increased levels of traditional cardiovascular risk factors. Furthermore, an increased interarm systolic blood pressure difference is associated with an increased risk for incident cardiovascular events, independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors.”

How to get an accurate reading

There are several factors that can affect the accuracy of your blood pressure readings. To get the most accurate measurement, it is essential to ensure that you are relaxed while your healthcare professional takes the reading. Additionally, your medical professional should use a correctly calibrated machine and appropriately sized cuff, taking care to avoid constriction of your arm by tight clothing.

Here are some additional tips to get an accurate blood pressure reading:

  1. Come prepared: Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine for 30 minutes prior to your appointment, as these substances can temporarily elevate blood pressure readings. Additionally, empty your bladder before the reading to avoid discomfort.

  2. Remain calm: Sit quietly for five minutes before the blood pressure measurement. Relax your arm on a table, with your palm facing up, at the level of your heart.

  3. Check both arms: Ask your healthcare professional to measure blood pressure in both arms to get an accurate assessment of your heart health.

  4. Multiple readings: Have your healthcare provider take two or three readings during the appointment to get an average measurement.

  5. Keep a log: Track your blood pressure readings at home and during doctor visits to monitor any fluctuations over time. This will help you identify patterns or potential issues.

By following these tips, you can help your healthcare provider obtain a more accurate blood pressure reading and gain better insight into your heart health.

Importance of monitoring blood pressure

Regularly monitoring your blood pressure is essential as it allows you to take steps to manage your risk of heart disease and other complications. According to American Heart Association, 75% of all first-time heart attacks, 77% of all first-time strokes, and 74% of all cases of chronic heart failure can be linked to high blood pressure. As high blood pressure can show no symptoms, regular blood pressure checks are crucial in identifying and managing issues before they become severe.

Lifestyle changes for lower blood pressure

There are several lifestyle changes you can make to keep your blood pressure in check:

  1. Follow a healthy diet: Eat a balanced diet that includes lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and salt.

  2. Exercise regularly: Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity each week. Regular exercise can help lower your blood pressure, manage stress, and maintain a healthy weight.

  3. Maintain a healthy weight: Losing just 5% to 10% of your body weight can significantly lower blood pressure. Speak to your healthcare professional to determine a healthy weight goal for you.

  4. Reduce stress: Identify triggers for stress and find healthy ways to cope, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.

  5. Limit alcohol intake: Heavy alcohol consumption can lead to increased blood pressure. Limit your intake to no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks per day for men.

Making these lifestyle changes, along with regular blood pressure monitoring, will help you better manage your heart health and overall wellbeing.