July 15, 2024

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Study Finds Millions of Adults Might Be Misdiagnosed with High Blood Pressure

Study Finds Millions of Adults Might Be Misdiagnosed with High Blood Pressure

Study Finds Millions of Adults Might Be Misdiagnosed with High Blood Pressure

Worrying that millions of Americans might be misdiagnosed and improperly medicated due to inaccurate blood pressure readings, leading heart health organizations are urging people to pay closer attention to the way patients measure their blood pressure.

Researchers at Ohio State University, collaborating with the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology, discovered astonishing levels of erroneous blood pressure data caused by differences in measurement locations and methods.

The study found that accurate readings are obtained when patients sit on a chair, feet flat on the floor, back supported, arm with the blood pressure cuff placed at heart level. Alternative methods, such as measuring while a patient is lying on an examination table, have been found to inflate the numbers, resulting in higher readings. Dr. Randy Wexler, a general practitioner at the Wexner Medical Center at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, expressed, “This is not conducive to accurate blood pressure measurement.”

The research involved 150 adults divided into three groups: one measured blood pressure on a fixed-height examination table and then on an adjustable supported chair; the second group performed the same tests in reverse order, and the third group measured blood pressure twice in the chair.

The analysis of aggregated data revealed that readings taken on the examination table were considerably higher than when the same tests were conducted in the supported, adjustable chair. The average systolic blood pressure (the highest value) was 7 mmHg higher, and the diastolic blood pressure (the lowest value) was 4.5 mmHg higher.

Consequently, researchers believe that millions of individuals might be misdiagnosed with high blood pressure, while their actual blood pressure might fall within a normal, healthy range. Wexler stated, “We were not surprised by this difference. We were surprised by how much.” This could lead patients to unnecessarily take medication to manage blood pressure. Apart from side effects, medication treatment can cause low blood pressure, which is particularly serious for elderly people facing a risk of falling, leading to dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.

“People might not need as much medication because medications have side effects. That’s why accurate and precise blood pressure measurement is important,” Wexler emphasized.


Study Finds Millions of Adults Might Be Misdiagnosed with High Blood Pressure



Close to half of U.S. adults are diagnosed with high blood pressure, which is determined when the continuous measurements reach or exceed 130 mmHg for systolic blood pressure and 80 mmHg for diastolic blood pressure.

Researchers also stressed that healthcare professionals need time to position patients correctly. They found that primary care providers would require over 26 hours a day to adhere to all proper prevention and chronic care guidelines.

“We need to improve efficiency,” mentioned Wexler. “But how can we make practical changes without slowing down the consultation process?”

Meanwhile, researchers hope that this study will raise awareness among patients, encouraging them to follow some simple measures, such as keeping both feet flat on the floor, ensuring the supported positioning of the testing arm, and refraining from talking during the assessment.

Dr. Jordana Cohen, a nephrologist at the Perelman School of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, emphasized, “We need to ensure proper blood pressure measurements and appropriate treatment. The healthcare system needs to prioritize this issue. We have to convince them that it’s economically sound as it leads to better outcomes.”

The research findings have been published in the journal “eClinicalMedicine.”

Study Finds Millions of Adults Might Be Misdiagnosed with High Blood Pressure

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