I learned to check my pressure at home to be sure it stayed normal, carefully following guidelines set by the American Heart Association and American Medical Association, including that the cuff should be placed over bare skin, the patient should not be talking, the arm should be supported with elbow at heart level, with back supported, legs uncrossed and both feet flat on the floor.
So I was surprised last winter when, as I waited to see my doctor, a nurse came in to the exam room and, in a rushed encounter, told me to hold my arm in the air as she placed the cuff over my sweater sleeve and took the measurement. My blood pressure was 130 over 66, which is still normal but on the high side of it. Some might classify it as borderline high pressure.
High blood pressure, considered a leading risk factor for heart attack and stroke, can be a scary thing. About 45 percent of people in the United States have high blood pressure and only 24 percent of them have their blood pressure under control, according to the CDC.
Having an accurate idea of your blood pressure is important — in 2018, there were nearly a half-million deaths in the United States that were caused by hypertension or in which it was a contributing cause.
Several studies have shown that how blood pressure is measured can alter the result and I wondered if that is what could have raised mine. A study of people who took part in the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT) found that blood pressure readings taken during routine clinic appointments were consistently higher than those taken during the study’s trial, which carefully adhered to AHA guidelines.