Many Americans struggle with high blood pressure. And even amongst those who do not, many have family members or friends who do. So quite often when we are in the pharmacy, super store, or grocery store we sit down at the blood pressure kiosk, slide an arm into the sleeve, and check our reading. When it is high, we may contact a doctor, but when it is normal or low we breath a sigh of relief and worry no more. A new report, however, says that perhaps we should not rest so easy, because those kiosk readings can be quite inaccurate. And an inaccurate reading can result in a delayed diagnosis of hypertension, which can have serious health consequences. While these kiosks often have warnings on them indicating that they should not be relied on as medical devices, many people do not take those warnings seriously, or read them at all.
FDA says Blood Pressure Kiosks Inaccurate
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an advisory recently about self-service blood pressure kiosks like the ones often found in pharmacies. The advisory explains that correct cuff size is a “critical factor” in measuring blood pressure, and that the cuffs on public kiosks do not fit every user. If the cuff is too small it can result in an artificially high blood pressure reading. If, on the other had, the cuff is too large it may not work at all or, more dangerously, it may result in an artificially low blood pressure reading.
In an article explaining the FDA’s advisory, the Cleveland Clinic explains that blood pressure is an important indicator of cardiovascular health. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can increase your risk for a host of cardiovascular maladies including heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and even death. One out of every three Americans suffers from high blood pressure, but it has no symptoms so it often goes undiagnosed until a doctor takes a patient’s blood pressure. So if you are using these kiosks, getting inaccurate low readings, and using that as an excuse to not go to the doctor, you could have deadly hypertension and not know it.
Using Your Own Blood Pressure Cuff
If you want to be able to get accurate readings outside of your doctors office, one option is to purchase your own blood pressure cuff from a pharmacy. Many people who have been diagnosed with hypertension do this in order to monitor their condition and alert their physician to any changes. However, if you choose to take this route, there are still mistakes you could make that could give you inaccurate readings. EMS1.com explains some errors that emergency medical professionals often make when taking blood pressure. Three of those errors can occur when you are taking your own blood pressure:
1) Using the wrong sized cuff. Just like the kiosks will not work correctly for you if the cuff size is not right, the same is true of a personal blood pressure cuff. So be sure to talk to your doctor about what size is best for you.
2) Positioning yourself incorrectly. A seated upright position provides the most accurate blood pressure reading as long as the arm in which you are taking the pressure remains at your side.
3) Positioning the cuff incorrectly. The standard placement is on your upper arm on bare skin. If you try taking your blood pressure through a sweater you will get an inaccurate reading.
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