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Wait a few minutes: Blood pressure readings lower when patients slow down

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va., April 20, 2006 After rushing to make your appointment, your name is called to be seen by the doctor. You are escorted to a room, where you sit on a table wrapped in crinkly white paper to have your temperature and blood pressure measured. Although a familiar scene, nurses at the University of Virginia Health System have confirmed a major problem with this scenario.

According to a new study from a team of nurses headed by Melly Turner, R.N., systolic blood pressure can be an average of 14 points higher when taken immediately after arriving in the exam room and sitting on an examination table rather than sitting in a chair with your back supported and feet flat on the floor. In fact, all study participants had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements when seated in a chair versus the exam table.

With a desirable blood pressure reading around 120/80, and the American Heart Association's definition of hypertension as 140/90 or greater on two consecutive tests, a 14-point difference can mean the difference between a clean bill of health and an inaccurate diagnosis.

"Currently, most patients get called back for their appointment, sit on the table, and immediately get their blood pressure measured," Turner said. "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. "

In the first study of its kind conducted by nurses, the group found that taking a blood pressure reading in a chair after at least five minutes of waiting provided more accurate results than the traditional approach. Turner's team even factored in anxiety when seeing a doctor, or the "white coat syndrome" into their research. White coats did not result in any statistically signi
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Contact: Jan Morrison
janmorrison@virginia.edu
434-924-5679
University of Virginia Health System
20-Apr-2006


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