With heart disease remaining one of the biggest killers of Americans, more and more people are taking steps to monitor their health and mitigate their risk of developing heart disease. For many, that takes the form of lowering their blood pressure. Aside from the many medications that can be taken to lower blood pressure, many Americans have decided to try to monitor their blood pressure at home. But while we trust electronic devices to be accurate, that trust may be misplaced.
That can be very dangerous to those who aren’t able to accurately measure their blood pressure. Measuring blood pressure too high can result in taking medications that not only aren’t necessary, but that could drop blood pressure lower than it needs to be. And measuring blood pressure too low could result in not taking medications that could lower blood pressure to safer levels.
One of the most common reasons for home blood pressure monitors to give inaccurate readings is improper placement of the monitor. Many blood pressure wrist cuffs for home use are designed to be placed exactly at heart level. Placing the wrist above the heart will result in readings that are too low, while placing the wrist below the heart will result in readings that are too high. Want to guess how many Americans know exactly where their heart is?
Then there’s the fact that many monitors just aren’t that accurate to begin with. Recent studies have demonstrated that many home blood pressure monitors aren’t accurate to within 5 mmHg of blood pressure about 70 percent of the time. And 30 percent of the time they’re off by 10 mmHg or more. Some doctors have even reported patients whose monitors are off by over 20 mmHg. That’s a huge discrepancy.
If you want to check your blood pressure at home, make sure to have your blood pressure monitor checked by your doctor to make sure it’s reading accurately. Even if it’s reading inaccurately, if it’s consistently inaccurate it can still be used to monitor your blood pressure. And if it’s reading accurately, be sure to check it every few months against a reference blood pressure monitor just to make sure everything’s still working. When it comes to protecting your heart, you don’t want to take any shortcuts.