Giving patients adequate time to settle down in the hospital atmosphere enables more accurate measurement of blood pressure, reveals a new study conducted by nurses at the University of Virginia Health System. Furthermore, it has been found that systolic blood pressure can be 14 points higher on an average when taken immediately after arriving in the exam room and sitting on an examination table.
The position of the patient also plays a crucial role in this regard. The blood pressure fluctuation is comparatively less when patients were made to sit on a chair with back support and their feet flat on the floor. Surprisingly, all patients had a much lower blood pressure (both systolic an diastolic) when the measurement was taken with the patient seated in a chair rather than an examination table.
According to the American Heart Association's definition, a person is said to have hypertension if the blood pressure is greater than 140/90 mm Hg or even greater on two tests conducted successively. The most widely accepted blood pressure reading is 120/80 mm Hg. Nearly one-third of Americans are estimated to suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension placing them at increased risk of suffering from stroke and cardiovascular complications, if left unattended to.
A difference in the blood pressure by a margin of 14 points or so can mark the difference between an inaccurate diagnosis and a clean bill of health. This first ever study conducted by nurses challenges the traditional approach to measuring blood pressure and recommend that the blood pressure should be measured after a period of 5 minutes waiting time, with the patient seated on a chair.
The study even took into consideration the so-called white coat syndrome that refers to the anxiety while seeing a doctor. Surprisingly white coats did not result in any statistically significant difference in blood pressure reading in comparison with scrubs or street clothes worn by nurses during the examination.
Two different teams of the same research would present the results of the study simultaneously at the national conference of the Preventative Cardiovascular Nurses Association in Denver and 5th Annual Medical Surgical Conference at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond on the 21st of April.
'Currently, most patients get called back for their appointment, sit on the table, and immediately get their blood pressure measured. Our study reaffirmed the American Heart Association's technique that patients should sit in a calm environment with feet flat on the floor, resting their back against the chair for at least five minutes before taking a blood pressure measurement on a bare arm at heart level. All too often, this doesn't happen,' said a nurse who led the study.
'Patients should know what their blood pressure is. If they have a diagnosis of high blood pressure, they need to know what the goal of their blood pressure should be, and how to get it there. This requires making necessary lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet, lowering fat intake, lowering salt and sodium intake, in addition to incorporating at least 30 minutes of physical activity into their schedule most days of the week,' stressed the senior researcher of the study.