How Accurate Are The Public Blood Pressure Machines At Pharmacies?

Question

Asked by sundevil21

How Accurate Are The Public Blood Pressure Machines At Pharmacies?

I'm asking because I recently used one of them. You see, I am a 20 year old female who is active and not overweight. I have a long history of hypochondria and OCD. I worry about health constantly. I used the machine initially to check my pulse because I was concerned it may be too low. Turns out my pulse was perfectly normal, however my systolic blood pressure was in the stage 1 hypertension range (diabolic was normal). I was in somewhat a state of panic upon taking the test so I'm wondering if they nerves could have driven up my blood pressure. I retested and it had dropped a bit. I read that to get an accurate measurement you should test at least three times with about 2 minutes between each reading, and that your third one will be the most accurate. I went back today and did this, my measurements came out as follows:149/77, 130/75, 135/83, 126/77. The first was still considered stage 1 for systolic. I went back later in the day and did the same thing again and got these results: 140/86, 126/70, 137/72, 122/69, 111/70. If it is indeed true that your third reading is most accurate does this mean that my bp is around 136 for systolic? Why does it drop after the first reading, is it due to stress? Also, it seems strange the diabolic is consistently normal. To be quite honest this is not the first time I've had a health scare that turned me into a state of panic. What's worse is I get sucked into the Internet researching symptoms and worrying myself sick that I have them. I'm very concerned and confused, can anyone answer any of my questions about the accuracy of these drug store machines and whether anxiety can affect bp? Thank you.

Answer

sundevil21,

Thanks for your question.

As a practicing physician, I never trusted those machines. To be honest, I only trusted my readings. For patients to monitor their pressures at home, I asked them to bring their machine into the office, take their own pressure, and then compare it to my readings. If they correlated, then I would trust their readings.

Your last reading of 110/70 is the true reading. There is no doubt that anxiety is playing a major role in your readings. You know that you are just putting yourself into a panic which will just raise your pressure, creating more anxiety.

Bottom line: You do not have high blood pressure. You should not take your own pressure. Leave that to your doctor when you see him on routine visits.

Best wishes.

Martin Cane, M.D.