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High Blood Pressure

Drug Store Blood Pressure Machines

04/12/2000

Question:

I have a quick medical question for you. Are those blood pressure machines in drug stores accurate? I took my blood pressure last night at the drug store and it seemed a little high (it registered 143/88). I was walking around a bit and I always get a little nervous before those tests, so I was wondering if that had anything to go with it. Should I pay attention to this? Also, I never seem to get an accurate reading when I go to the doctor b/c I`m always a bit anxious....Anyway, how am I supposed to know if I have high blood pressure if I`m always nervous when I take the test? Or should I assume that it is always lower than what it registers at? I hope I don`t have high blood pressure b/c I try to run about 3 miles about 4 times a week and have been eating healthy....if so, what would you recommend me to do?

Thanks for your continued medical support :)

Answer:

Blood pressure machines in drug stores are not very accurate. They usually offer only one cuff size and the patients` body position is often uncomfortable which can affect the result. Drug stores are busy and noisy places, and the patient is generally not completely relaxed, which can raise the blood pressure. Luckily, the measurements obtained under such conditions are usually too high, and your real blood pressure is likely to be lower than what you found.

To measure blood pressure accurately, the following basic rules should be observed:

- No coffee or smoking for 30 minutes before the measurement. - The person doing the measurement has to be trained in the proper technique. - The patient should be sitting comfortably, with the arm supported. No clothing over the arm where the cuff is placed. - The patient should be relaxed and rest in the sitting position for 5 minutes before the measurement is made. - The cuff should be level with the heart and needs to be the proper size. - Two or three readings should be taken, at least 1 minute apart.

For more information:

Go to the High Blood Pressure health topic, where you can:

Response by:

Max C Reif, MD Max C Reif, MD
Professor of Medicine
Director of Hypertension Section
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati