If you're taking medication for high blood pressure, I've got news for you. According to a new study out of Canada, there's a 20% chance your doctor's diagnosis is completely wrong. That means you may not even have high blood pressure. And if your blood pressure is high, it may not be as high as you think.
How is it that so many doctors could miss such a simple diagnosis? Lead author of the study, Janusz Kaczorowski, said, "This is due mainly to the fact that their blood pressure was improperly measured."
That's because the technology used to measure blood pressure has changed a lot over the last 20 years. Doctors and nurses traditionally use equipment that measures your blood pressure manually. This is fine if it's done right. But many clinicians don't do it right. And now there are automatic electronic measuring devices available. Kaczorowski says, "These are more expensive but more precise because they take several measurements."
They're so much better than the manual devices that The Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) Guidelines now recommend electronic measurement over manual measurement.
While more and more clinics are using the electronic devices, there are still plenty that don't. According to this study, 52% of the clinics still use the manual devices. And, as I said, many of them don't use the manual equipment correctly. So there's a significant chance that they're going to misdiagnosis you as having high blood pressure.
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"To take blood pressure the right way," says Kaczorowski, "a 12- to 15-minute period is required. We know that the average visit to a family doctor lasts 10 minutes. We have to rethink how patient visits are organized so that the patient can be left alone in a room while the measurement is taken."
I think the 20% number they came up with is very low. I think far more people are misdiagnosed. That's because patients have white coat hypertension. In other words, they get nervous when they walk into the doctor's office and their blood pressure goes up. If they could sit in a room for 12-15 minutes, they could relax and their numbers would be better. But there aren't many doctors that will do that.
However, even 12-15 minutes isn't ideal. The best way to measure your blood pressure is to check your blood pressure periodically over the course of two weeks. If it's regularly high, you might have high blood pressure. But if it's only occasionally high, you don't have high blood pressure — you have periods of stress that cause your blood pressure to go up.
You’ll need to buy an automated arm blood pressure monitor to do this. And make sure you’ve rested for five minutes before taking the reading. Taking it first thing in the morning before you eat or drink anything is best. Then take it again in the late afternoon before dinner. Each time you take it, wait a minute and do it again. If the measurements are close, then record that measurement. If they’re different, wait another minute and do it one more time. Record the lowest reading. After two weeks, average the readings and see what your final number is.
Here's how to know if your pressure is high: For those under 60, anything over 140/90 is high. For those over 60, anything over 160/90 is high. More than likely, you know why your blood pressure is high. You may be under a lot of stress, you could have a health condition that's causing it, you might be taking a medication that raises it, or your diet isn't as healthful as it could be. Correct these problems first. Then consider taking a supplement like Circutol for three to four months and repeat the measurements. If it's not down at that point, talk to an alternative minded doctor to see what else you can do. Medications might be needed, but they should be a last resort — not the first step.
Your insider for better health,
Steve Kroening, ND.