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Why do I keep getting different blood pressure readings?

By Annette Guye-Kordus, health enews

A news service from AdvocateAuroraHealth

Blood pressure is an important indicator of your health as it measures the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels. While you probably know it’s important, you might not know why your blood pressure readings vary each time.

“It’s actually quite normal to have variation in blood pressure readings, even within a few minutes,” says Marjorie Willett, nurse practitioner at Aurora Lakeland Medical Center. “Factors that may create changes include physical activity, emotion, diet (especially salt and alcohol intake), and sleep deprivation.”

Here are the top three reasons why your blood pressure readings may be fluctuating:

  • Time of day: Blood pressure has a daily pattern. Usually, it starts to rise a few hours before a person wakes up. It continues to rise during the day, peaking in midday. Blood pressure typically drops in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Different equipment: The equipment being used can also impact the readings. If you’re using a home blood pressure cuff, the readings might be off. The same holds true for drugstore equipment.
  • Stress levels: If you are feeling strong emotions or anxiety, or even just feeling stress because you are in a health care setting, your readings may vary.

Most fluctuations in blood pressure readings are within the ranges outlined in blood pressure categories:

  • Normal blood pressure: Less than 120/80.
  • Elevated blood pressure: Readings consistently run 120-129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic.
  • Hypertension stage 1: Blood pressure consistently runs 130-139 systolic or 80-89 diastolic.
  • Hypertension stage 2: Blood pressure consistently runs 140/90 or higher.
  • Hypertensive crisis: Blood pressure readings exceed 180/120 and you have symptoms such as headaches, chest pain, nausea/vomiting or dizziness. If this occurs, seek medical attention immediately.

Is it a concern if blood pressure readings vary between arms?  

“A systolic difference of more than 20 points could potentially indicate a problem,” says Willett. “Blood pressure variance can be due to a circulatory disturbance in the arterial structure that supplies blood to the arm. Further assessment by your provider would be recommended and additional testing may be necessary.”

Despite the variations, keeping an eye on your blood pressure is a good idea.

“If left undetected or uncontrolled, prolonged high blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, peripheral arterial disease, vision loss and sexual dysfunction,” says Willett. “Many people don’t even realize they have hypertension because it doesn’t frequently cause symptoms. That’s why it’s referred to as the ‘silent killer’.”

This article originally appeared on health enews.

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