Here’s the deal.
We are frequently told how fat people are at risk for high blood pressure.
So it behooves us to have it checked now and again.
Want an accurate reading – use an old-fashioned sphygmomanometer.
That’s that thing that used to hang on every doctor’s wall, and they’d put it on your arm, pump it up (by hand) with their stethoscope stuck under the cuff – that can give you an accurate reading.
I even asked Kaiser’s patient administration – I have a right to that.
Good luck trying to implement that right.
Even though I have repeatedly said, this is my right as a patient, I have not gotten the manual measure – maybe they don’t teach it anymore.
And unfortunately, the blood pressure machines used nowadays are amazingly bad at working with fat arms.
First, you have the cuff size.
This is very important.
Too small a cuff – you get a false high reading; too large a cuff – you get a false low reading.
And don’t let them tell you taking it on the forearm is just as good – it isn’t.
It’s better than nothing, but it’s not as accurate – you get false highs. Unless, they want to do the math – according to the National Institutes of Health:
The equation to correct BPM in forearm in obese patients with arm circumference between 32-44 cm was: systolic BPM=33.2+/-0.68 x systolic forearm BPM, and diastolic BPM=25.2+0.59 x forearm diastolic BPM.
There is another problem that I don’t happen to have but fat people with short and conical-shaped arms also have a problem with too large cuffs because the cuff doesn’t uniformly cover the upper arm – part of it is either stuffed in the armpit or hanging below the elbow – causing inaccurate readings.
Second, because the machines have trouble measuring our blood pressure, they tend to require repeated readings.
This can raise your blood pressure all by itself.
It can also cause damage to your brachial artery (the one they are trying to read), and …
Can we talk about the pain fat people go through in getting a blood pressure reading?
I don’t know if fat tissue compresses differently or what, but the machine just squeezes and squeezes, releases a little, and then ramps up for more squeezing.
And then the machine errors out.
I had my blood pressure taken a week ago.
It took 3 tries (and 2 different machines)
And I still have a circle of broken blood vessels on my upper arm.
Imagine how much it hurts having your arm squeezed until one by one the blood vessels burst.
That’s what fat people go through when they want to take our blood pressure.
And then they wonder why fat folk tend to show elevated blood pressure readings.
You know what? How about we take the blood pressure of the average size person while they’re having a mammogram (or a testicle-gram)? And let’s see how those blood pressure readings come out.
So, when my doctor tries to talk to me about a slightly elevated blood pressure reading, I pretty much tell her where she can stick it unless it is part of a trend or if she wants to confirm it by doing a manual reading.