Controversy often surrounds new medical health studies.
The Mayo Clinic recently published a study that challenges many
doctors, and patients as well, as to when and how they should take your blood pressure.
If this study is valid, it may mean that millions of people were prescribed dangerous blood pressure drugs unnecessarily—when in fact they were perfectly healthy.
Doing More Harm Than Good
Mayo Clinic researchers examined the histories of more than 400 patients and they found that those patients having their blood pressure taken every time during a patient visit may cause more harm than checking it only once per year.
White Coat Syndrome
Some of the reasons researchers found were for the potential errors in over-diagnosis due to false positives including the fact that the staff were not following proper testing procedures, and seemed oblivious to the effects of “white coat syndrome.” This occurs when blood pressure becomes temporarily elevated as a result of anxiety over simply having a doctor visit.
The study team concluded, after reviewing patient charts, taking a patient’s blood pressure once per year, and of course doing it properly, during the annual exam would eliminate the many of the false positives. By following this procedure, this would eliminate unnecessary follow-up testing or the need to begin drug therapy.
According to an article published by Blue Heron Health News, Critics looking at the study results say that the 7% error in finding actual hypertensive patients by screening only once per year is too big of an error margin and more frequent testing should always be the safer route.
The answer then seems to indicate the need for frequent and properly conducted at-home blood pressure screening. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that home blood pressure devices, when used at the recommended 3-times-per-day interval and in the proper way are a much more accurate gauge of how a patient is faring than measuring blood pressure in the stressful area of a doctor’s office.
The “Mechanics” of Taking Your Blood Pressure
The proper method includes making sure you are seated and have been at rest for at least 5 minutes before performing the test, and the testing arm is supported like it is resting on the arm of a chair.. Both sides of the controversial study agree that this is not being done in the doctor’s office, which accounts for many of the errors.
My wife and I both follow this procedure and we always test with the BP cuff on the left arm—as the cuff manufacturer recommends. No . . . we don’t test 3 times each day. It is more like once or twice a week. There is no point being fanatical about it.
Invest in a fully automatic blood pressure cuff
We have two BP outfits: one is kept at our home in Raleigh and the other is at our place at the NC coast. Both were purchased at Walmart. If a Walmart store is not convenient to where you live, you can order an outfit over the Internet and it will be shipped to you.
In the “Search” window near the top of the page, type in – Blood Pressure Cuff. They have a variety of models . The cuffs that we have are fully automated, battery operated. One button turns it on and another begins the process. It automatically inflates itself—no pumping it up by your squeezing a rubber bulb. It shows current BP (hopefully 120/80) or lower, and it also shows your pulse rate.