Published on
May 28, 2017
Dr. Cher Morgan

Blood pressure readings can go wrong in two obvious ways: a high reading when your blood pressure is actually normal or a normal reading when your blood pressure is sky-high.

Both are problematic, as the former may convince healthy people to take medications that may make them sick, and as the latter may prompt unhealthy people to continue their unhealthy lifestyles.

In a study in Canadian Family Physician, researchers at the University of Montréal have now discovered that the majority of doctors may inadvertently give you incorrect blood pressure readings.

Researchers in Montréal were interested in the numbers of Canadian practitioners who used electronic versus manual blood pressure measurement devices.

To find out more, they mailed a survey to randomly selected doctors who were members of the College of Family Physicians of Canada.

A total of 769 doctors returned the survey.

Of all the participants, 54.2% (417 altogether) stated that they used manual equipment to measure their patient’s blood pressure, usually a mercury or aneroid device and a stethoscope.

Only 42.9% (330) reported using automated equipment.

When they were asked what appliances were responsible for the most hypertension diagnoses, they reported:

– automated equipment: 31.1%

– manual measurement: 21.4%

– home-based instruments: 22.4%

– 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring: 14.4%

Of diagnosed cases, 68.7% were managed through home monitoring, 63.6% by manual office equipment, and 59.2% by automated office instruments.

Why is this important?

Previous studies have found that automated instruments are more accurate than manual types.

Unlike manual ones, automated device’s readings don’t need to be interpreted, and they therefore exclude the possibility of human error.

All of this made the Canadian researchers think that 20% or more people treated for high blood pressure may not actually have a problem.

Therefore, if you want to obtain an accurate reading, ask your doctor whether it is possible to receive a reading with an automated device.

So you’ve gotten a diagnosis and you’re sure it’s the real thing – now what?


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