Are Blood Pressure Readings Accurate?

Are Blood Pressure Readings AccurateYears ago I was flying a plane on a long trip, way out over the Gulf of Mexico. There are three ways to ascertain an airplane’s fuel status, and two of those three said I had enough fuel left, but the third said I was low. Many would assume the third reading was wrong, but my rule is that you must go by the worst possible scenario, cut the trip short, conserve and refuel.

As it turned out, an uncommon leak was present and we were low on fuel. Comparing information and making wise decisions also relates to many health care findings. One of these is Blood Pressure.

There Are 3 Important Questions About Blood Pressure Readings:

1) Are they accurate? 2) Are they important? 3) What is “high” blood pressure?

Having a “normal” Blood Pressure (B.P.) is important for good health. Long term (chronic) high BP stresses your Kidneys, eyes and cardiovascular system. We need to have all our organs unstressed for optimal health.

It’s important to note that blood pressure is always changing. It changes a few points if you are being still, and a lot if you’ve been recently active. When the person that was recently active sits down for a BP, their reading will typically see a large decrease within 10-minutes.

Electronic cuffs are very inaccurate for some people. If your BP sounds fade in for the high number (systolic) and fade out for the low number (diastolic), the machine readings can be off by 20-points easily. Even the doctor’s hearing may change the number he or she hears! Use the machines in Publix and the drug store if you want to, and then compare those to my readings in a medical setting with better equipment, and you will probably see a difference.

Rare is the BP so high that we need to take immediate action like referral to the Emergency Department or to other doctors for spine center lauderdale ft. Comparison over time is the key. 120 over 80 is in the upper range of “normal”, and we like to screen it and work with lifestyle changes to improve it. If it is mildly higher than that, we will watch it more often to make sure it’s not getting or staying too high. Too high, 20 points on the top number, and or 10 points on the bottom number, emphasis on the word “Or!”, and you may be in danger. Pilots actually have their blood pressure regulated by the FAA. They allow 155 over 95 as a maximum reading, and I wouldn’t want to see higher in a patient on a long-term basis.

Over my career I have seen different blood pressure devices give very different readings. I routinely calibrate all blood pressure devices in my office, but there’s no way to know how many Doctors follow this practice. How many people may have been misdiagnosed due to a faulty machine reading?

In 90% of High BP cases it’s difficult to say exactly why you have it, but Salt in prepared or packaged foods is one of the biggest things to eliminate (or at least minimize) to help lower your BP. Of course you need to add less salt yourself, but it’s the salt others have added before the food even gets to you that is the main culprit. Checking labels or other nutritional information can help you reduce salt intake from common food items.

Diet, exercise, lifestyle changes, spinal adjustments, acupuncture, and other safe treatments exist that me help to keep blood pressure in-check as well, but consult with your Doctors and compare different readings before starting or stopping any medications.

Dr. Michael Petrie, D.C.
Spine and Joint Center