Recommendations: The 5-Minute Guide for Lower Blood Pressure
By ERIC NAGOURNEY
Published: May 2, 2006
Want lower blood pressure? Ask your doctor to let you sit quietly for five minutes before it's taken — on a regular chair, not on an examining table, with your feet on the floor.
The result can be a systolic blood pressure reading about 14 points lower, potentially a big enough difference to avoid a diagnosis of hypertension, a new study reports.
The study, by a team of nurses from the University of Virginia Health System, was presented at a conference of the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association.
Guidelines from the American Heart Association and the federal government already recommend that patients sit for five minutes before having their blood pressure taken, and that they not be on an examining table.
But Melly Turner, a registered nurse who helped lead the study, said evidence showed that the guidelines were not always followed, especially in medical settings that do not specialize in treating high blood pressure. When the researchers examined the practices at Ms. Turner's hospital, for example, they found that blood pressure was routinely taken while patients were on examining tables, she said.
"With your legs dangling without any support, it's going to be higher," she said.
When the researchers took readings from 100 elderly patients on either chairs or examining tables and with and without a wait, they found a 14-point average difference in the systolic reading, the upper number.
The difference is significant enough that a patient whose blood pressure is fine could walk away from a doctor's office with a misdiagnosis, the researchers said. Those patients may be placed on diets or prescribed medicines that cause side effects.