The arm squeeze test: could your blood pressure reading be wrong?

Credit: Pera Detlic/Pixabay.

You know how doctors measure blood pressure, right? They strap a cuff around your arm, inflate it until it’s tight, then let the air out slowly while listening with a stethoscope.

It’s been the go-to method for years. But scientists now say this cuff method might not be as accurate as we thought, especially for people with mid-range blood pressure.

This could mean some people at risk of heart disease might not be getting the help they need.

Scrutinizing Old and New Data

In their study, the scientists looked at data from lots of studies going back as far as the 1950s.

They compared the cuff blood pressure readings of over 2,500 people to the readings from a more accurate method known as invasive blood pressure.

They found out that it’s not clear if the cuff method measures the pressure in the arm arteries accurately, or the pressure in the big artery near the heart called the aorta.

This matters because the pressure can be different in these two spots. It can vary by as much as 25 mmHg, which is a big deal!

The Pressure Puzzle

The pressure in the aorta is really important. It’s what your organs like your heart and brain actually experience.

So, if there’s a big difference between the pressure in the arm and the aorta, it could lead doctors to make the wrong decisions about diagnosis and treatment.

The Pressure Point

The team found the cuff method was pretty accurate when comparing it to the gold standard invasive method in people with either very low blood pressure (below 120/80 mmHg) or very high blood pressure (160/100 mmHg or higher).

These are the two ends of the blood pressure scale.

But for people in the middle range, with systolic (top number) readings of 120 to 159, and diastolic (bottom number) readings of 80 to 99 mmHg, the accuracy was much lower. It was only right about half the time.

This means that for people with mid-range blood pressure readings, the cuff method might not give a true picture of their actual blood pressure.

An Ongoing Search for Accuracy

Even though the study found some issues with accuracy, don’t worry. We know that lowering high blood pressure with medication helps prevent strokes, heart attacks, and other problems.

The cuff method is still useful, but we might be able to help even more people if we could measure blood pressure more accurately.

So, stay informed about your blood pressure and explore ways to keep it healthy, like fasting or early time-restricted eating. And keep an eye out for new research and treatment ideas.

This study was published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. It’s just one piece of the puzzle in the ongoing quest to understand and manage blood pressure better.

If you care about high blood pressure, please read studies about the best time to take high blood pressure drugs, and scientists find new ways to treat high blood pressure.

For more information about health, please see recent studies that Beetroot juice could help lower high blood pressure, and results showing this common plant nutrient could help reduce high blood pressure.

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