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Next time your doctor takes your blood pressure, make sure your arm is bent at the elbow and your forearm is supported. It could make the difference between a normal reading and one that indicates you have hypertension, or high blood pressure.
Readings taken on patients with their arms by their sides were up to 10 percent higher than readings taken on the same patients with their arms bent, according to a study from the University of California, San Diego, and the Medical College of Wisconsin.
"When your arm is hanging down, the cuff is below heart level, which increases blood-pressure readings," explains Cheryl Laffer, MD, at the Center for Hypertension and Cardiovascular Medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital, in New York City. An ambulatory blood-pressure monitor -- a small portable device you can get from your doctor that takes a reading every 15 or 30 minutes for a 24-hour period -- can help your doctor determine if a spike in your blood pressure during the office visit is truly indicative of a problem.
Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal magazine, May 2004.