10 factors that affect the measurement of blood pressure
If you have, or are prone to, high blood pressure, you probably know that it is important to measure it regularly.
This often happens at home, with a home blood pressure monitor, and much less often in a doctor's office. But did you know that there are several factors that can cause a temporary jump or drop in blood pressure that can lead to a false result? The position of your hand, your emotional state, the temperature in the room - these are just some of the factors that can "distort" the measurement result. The indications may show hypertension and you may start taking a medicine that you do not really need. Or vice versa - to have high blood pressure, but it is not visible in the measurements.
To ensure accurate reporting, it is good to know the 10 factors that can affect the results of measuring blood pressure:
1. Improperly fitted blood pressure cuff
Most errors in blood pressure readings are the result of incorrect placement of the cuff on the device. That's why it's worth paying attention and making sure you put it on correctly - you shouldn't feel it too tight or too loose on your arm. Too tight a cuff can add 2 to 10 mmHg to your performance.
During the measurement, it is important to place the cuff on the bare hand, not on the clothes. Roll up your sleeve high, and if it is too tight and tight - take off your clothes. Putting a cuff on your clothes can increase your blood pressure by 10 to 50 mmHg.
2. Physical activity just before the measurement
Physical activity, such as walking, running, exercising, and sometimes even basic household activities, can have a serious effect on your blood pressure. Before you start measuring it, you need to calm your heart rate as much as possible. For this purpose, it is good to spend a few minutes at rest - sitting or lying down, until you feel completely calm.
3. Improper body and arm position
When measuring your blood pressure, you need to stand in a strictly defined position. In a sitting position, the arm should be stretched, placed about 6 cm below the shoulder to approach the level of the heart. Your legs should not be crossed, and your arm should be at rest, a firmly propped table or chair back. If you let it hang down, you will get lower than the actual values (up to 12 mmHg). If you measure your blood pressure lying down, make sure you keep your arm at your side, at body level.
Although anxiety and stress are not factors in chronic hypertension, they can affect your blood pressure during the measurement itself. When you are under stress, your body releases cortisol - a stress hormone. If you experience stress immediately before or during the measurement, the jump in cortisol levels will lead to an increase in heart rate and higher blood pressure. Sometimes just the anxiety of being in the doctor's office, often called "white coat hypertension," can lead to high blood pressure. Try to reduce stress levels by taking deep breaths and exhales before and during the measurement.
Digestion has been shown to lower your blood pressure, so it is recommended that you measure it before eating or wait 30 minutes after eating. Malnutrition or starvation, as well as spicy foods, can also lead to inaccurate reporting. Remember to eat wholesome, healthy foods to help lower your blood pressure in the long run.
Sometimes even minimal effort can lead to erroneous blood pressure results. Studies show that speaking can increase your performance by 10 to 15 mmHg. Do not talk during the measurement - be quiet, calm and breathe deeply to get correct results.
Tobacco products (cigarettes, tobacco, cigars, etc.) contain nicotine, which could increase heart rate and blood pressure. Cigarette smoking, for example, can lead to an immediate increase in blood pressure of 5 to 10 mmHg. This increase is temporary, but it is best not to use tobacco for at least 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.
8. Alcohol / caffeine
Consumption of alcohol and caffeine (coffee, black / green tea, energy drinks) can increase your blood pressure levels, and studies show that this effect can last from 30 minutes up to several hours. Because different people experience different effects over time, it's best to measure your blood pressure before you drink any alcohol or caffeine-based drink.
9. Ambient temperature
When blood vessels constrict due to lower temperatures, blood pressure readings may increase as blood requires more pressure to flow through narrower blood vessels. Keep in mind that if you feel cold during the measurement, your blood pressure will probably be higher than normal.
10. Full bladder
When your bladder is full, the pressure on your kidneys puts pressure on your blood vessels. Remember to use the toilet before measuring your blood pressure, as a full bladder can add up to 10 to 15 mmHg to your results.
As you can see, blood pressure is not a constant - it changes due to many factors. Pay attention to these factors to make sure you get accurate results in your measurements and conduct the right treatment.