Sneaky Reasons Your Blood Pressure Reading is Off

Are your blood pressure readings higher (or lower) than usual? These surprising factors might be at play.

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Things that can affect blood pressure reading
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The way you sit

Next time the nurse tells you to hop up on the exam table so they can take your blood pressure, don’t. “When you’re sitting like that with your feet dangling, you’re almost between sitting and standing. This can affect your reading because your blood pressure is different when you’re standing versus lying down,” says Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of the Joan H. Tisch Center for Women’s Health at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City. The proper position is seated in a chair with your back flat against the chair back and your feet flat on the floor (no crossing allowed!). Any good doctor should accept your request to sit in a chair instead of atop a crinkly exam table, she says.

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The position of your arm can affect your blood pressure reading
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How you hold your arm

If your arm isn’t supported, blood pressure readings can get messed up. “Your arm should be flat on a table or supported by the person taking your pressure, it shouldn’t just be hanging in the air,” says Dr. Goldberg. If your arm is too high or low, it can affect how hard your heart has to pump to keep blood flowing, which then affects your blood pressure.

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Empty your bladder before a blood pressure reading
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Your bathroom schedule

“Empty your bladder right before your exam,” says Dr. Goldberg. “A full bladder might raise your blood pressure.”

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Smoking can affect your blood pressure reading
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Smoking is never good for your blood pressure reading, especially right before a doctor’s appointment. “Smoking can raise your reading because it causes spasms of the arteries,” says Dr. Goldberg.

Here are 50 heart health tips from Canadian cardiologists.

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Sodium can affect your blood pressure reading
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Your dinner the night before

“Eating a salty meal the day or night before can temporarily lead to an elevated reading,” says Dr. Goldberg. You should also be mindful of what you eat on the day of the exam; stick to a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of whole grains, lean protein, and fruits and veggies. Trying to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet is always a healthy move.

Here are 20 ways salt is making you sick.

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Blood pressure reading at home - man wearing cuff
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The blood pressure cuff

When it comes to the cuff, you are Goldilocks and it has to fit just right. If it’s too loose, you could get falsely low blood pressure readings; if it’s too tight, your reading might be inaccurately higher. “If the cuff feels too tight before it’s blown up, you know it’s too tight. If it’s falling off, you know it’s too big,” says Dr. Goldberg.

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A stressful commute can affect your blood pressure reading
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Your commute

A stressful trip to the doctor can throw your blood pressure reading way off once you actually get there. If traffic or crowded subways got your heart racing, ask to rest for five minutes before handing over your arm. “I usually let my patients rest for a few minutes so they can get their blood pressure to a more normal level. My assistant even shuts off the light,” Dr. Goldberg says.

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Stay hydrated for an accurate blood pressure reading
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How hydrated you are

Dehydration can lower your blood pressure readings, so be sure to drink plenty of fluids the day before and day of (and every other day, too). “It’s important we get an accurate assessment so we aren’t over-treating or under-treating people,” says Dr. Goldberg.

Here’s what happens when you start drinking eight glasses of water a day.

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Tips for an accurate blood pressure reading
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Your small talk

Don’t be rude, but if the person taking your blood pressure tries to make small talk, politely ask them to wait until after the reading. “Talking can raise your blood pressure, so just chill out,” says Dr. Goldberg.

Now that you know the factors that can affect your blood pressure reading, check out 17 natural remedies for high blood pressure.

The Healthy
Originally Published on The Healthy

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