Simple tips to improve your blood pressure checks

A recent study confirmed that the doctor’s office may be one of the worst places to determine if your blood pressure is under control. The automatic rise in tension many people experience when they are being scrutinized contributes to artificially high blood pressure readings. Although many times the only way improve one’s blood pressure is through treatment (such as medication, a low salt diet, and weight loss), other times I’ve seen a simple 10 second relaxation routine drop a patient’s blood pressure reading by up to 20 systolic points.

The following may help you obtain a better, more accurate reading the next time you have your pressure checked in the harried office.

  1. Insist on being seated for at least 3 minutes before your pressure is taken. Even walking from the waiting room back into an examining room will briefly increase your blood pressure.
  2. Take several deep, relaxed breaths in and out before the doctor begins to check your blood pressure.
  3. Relax all your muscles, particularly focusing on the tightness in your neck and shoulders.

These three easy steps can make a huge difference. Anecdotally as I mentioned before I’ve seen 20 point differences before and after. Evidence supports this, including the most recent study which found:

The proportion of patients whose systolic BP was identified as controlled in the first 30 days varied by measurement type: 28% for clinic readings, 47% for home readings, and 68% for research-based readings

Research-based readings in this study were difficult to define, but it seems they used a more standard, resting technique than the typical fast paced office visit.

Go ahead and try this at home with a BP monitor, and discuss with your doctor. And then relax throughout the day regardless.

“Dr. Charles” is a family physician who blogs at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles.

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