Avoid Unnecessary Blood Pressure Meds

The simple way to get a more accurate reading

by Norine Dworkin-McDaniel
digital blood pressure monitor cuff picture
Photograph: Viktor Lugovskoy

Because of less-than-accurate numbers, some women are prescribed blood pressure medication they don’t need, or they’re taking a higher dose than necessary. The good way to avoid either situation? Measure your BP at home, suggests a new Duke University study. Researchers discovered that for more than half of the 444 study participants, systolic blood pressure (the top number) was at least 10 millimeters of mercury (10 mm Hg) higher on average in the doc-tor’s office than at home—a big enoughjump to push many subjects into a higher risk category. Part of the problem is that 10 to 20 percent of patients experience blood pressure spikes from the stress of being in a doctor’s office. Blood pressure also fluctuates during the day. “Any reading is a snapshot, some-times higher, sometimes a little lower than your true average,” says lead study author Benjamin Powers, MD. Here’s how to get a more accurate number: In the week leading up to your next doctor’s appointment, take six measurements, each at a different time of day, with an inexpensive home monitor, available at any drug store (choose a wider cuff if you’re overweight). Share the numbers with your doc. “The more readings you have, the more confidentyou can feel that the aver-age reflects your true blood pressure,” says Powers.

Next: Lower Your Blood Pressure—Without Drugs

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First Published February 28, 2012

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