Health screenings are an important part of healthier ageing. Of all the possible medical examinations your doctor may recommend, one of the most important is the blood pressure test.
High blood pressure is sometimes called a “silent killer.” It often has no warning signs or symptoms, which means many people don’t even know they have it. And this can be dangerous because having untreated high blood pressure increases your risk for stroke and heart disease—two of the leading causes of death in the Australia and New Zealand.
That’s why regular blood pressure screenings—whether done in your doctor’s surgery, at home, or with an automated machine at the pharmacy—are so important. Even if you have normal blood pressure you should still have a check-up every 2 years and during routine visits to your doctor.
Blood pressure readings can vary widely, and it can be difficult to ensure a correct measurement. Use the following advice to help you weigh the pros and cons of getting tested in several available locations, as well as to help you get an accurate blood pressure measurement no matter where the screening is performed.
Pros: Healthcare professionals are trained to properly measure blood pressure and immediately interpret the results. You’ll also be able to discuss your blood pressure with your doctor and together, decide on a course of action if it is too high.
Cons: Some people may experience stress when they’re in a doctor’s surgery, which can ramp up their blood pressure. If this happens to you, your doctor may use different criteria to determine whether you’re hypertensive as well as recommend at-home monitoring.
You Should Know: Your healthcare professional should take your blood pressure after a few minutes of rest, not as soon as you walk into the surgery. You should also avoid caffeine or tobacco before having your blood pressure measured—here or anywhere else.
Pros: Automated machines found in chemists and even shopping centres offer convenience and usually offer measurements free of charge.
Cons: There’s no way of knowing how frequently the machines in these places are calibrated. Also, the cuff may not fit you correctly, making it difficult to get an accurate reading.
You Should Know: While there’s little harm in checking your blood pressure while you wait to pick up a prescription, readings taken by these machines should not replace regular screenings with a healthcare professional and you should always discuss your results with your doctor and pharmacist.
Pros: Using an at-home blood pressure monitor is a convenient way to keep tabs on your blood pressure. Plus, if you’re already working on managing high blood pressure with medication and lifestyle changes, regularly checking your blood pressure can help you see if your efforts are working.
Cons: There are some people who might be physically or mentally unable to measure their own blood pressure. Also, your reading will only be accurate if you use a quality device and you use it correctly.
You Should Know: Before monitoring your own blood pressure, be sure to bring your device to your healthcare professional. You want to make sure the reading you get from your doctor is the same as the one you’re getting with your device. Your doctor can also ensure that you’re using the device correctly and that it’s best suited for your needs.
Last reviewed: 15/08/2019
- Heart Foundation Australia
- Heart Foundation New Zealand
- Stroke Foundation Australia
- Stroke Foundation New Zealand