If your health care provider tells you to go into the examination room and sit on the examination table and then comes in to take your blood pressure, you may want to ask him or her to double-check it in five minutes. But, first, ask to sit in a chair with your feet on the ground.

In a new study conducted by nurses at the University of Virginia Health System – reported at the national conference of the Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association and at the Medical Surgical Conference at Virginia Commonwealth University, both held on April 21, 2006 – all patients had lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings when they sat for five minutes in a chair with their back supported and their feet flat on the floor, than when sitting on the examination table with their feet dangling. On average, systolic pressure was 14 points higher on the table.

In another study reported in the July (2006) issue of the American Journal of Hypertension, Italian researchers found that both upper and lower blood pressure readings dropped significantly after patients were seated for ten minutes prior to the reading.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a desirable reading is 120/80 (systolic/diastolic). However, a reading of 140/90 on two consecutive tests indicates stage I hypertension.

Apparently, the way your pressure is measured could be the difference between the early signs of hypertension and a clean bill of health.

The AHA estimates that nearly one-third of Americans have high blood pressure, which can lead to stroke, stiffness of the heart over time or an enlarged heart if untreated. Get yours checked, but keep you feet on the ground.

The LHSFNA publishes a health alert (High Blood Pressure) that summarizes the risks and danger levels of hypertension. More information is available from the LHSFNA Health Promotion Division.