Controlling Your Blood Pressure
By Richard R. Grayson, M.D.
Senior Aviation Medical Examiner
A pilot came to my
office for his flight physical one morning with a blood pressure of
184/120. He had no previous elevations
of blood pressure. Upon questioning him, it turned out that he had a big
argument with his 17 year-old daughter just before he left the house. He was
still enraged. The next day and ever
since then his blood pressure was normal.
One of the most common discrepancies
that might ground you at the flight physical is your blood pressure. You
might have to negotiate an FAA aeromedical obstacle course after that, so let's
review a few pearls of information.
Blood pressure tips:
- Look up white coat hypertension. Some
people have a phobia for the doctor’s office and it raises their blood
pressure beyond the normal range.
- Buy your own automatic digital battery
operated blood pressure outfit (sphygmomanometer) and do your own testing
- Get the kind that goes on the upper arm,
not the wrist or finger.
- Choose the type that blows up the cuff
- If you have a large arm, you might need a
- Take your blood pressure repeatedly over
5-10 minutes if high.
- Breathe deeply.
- Relax your arm.
- Anxiety releases adrenalin
and raises the blood pressure
- Normally nobody
ever thinks of margin of error when measuring blood pressure because
the blood pressure varies from moment to moment.
- I always tell
folks who have a home machine to bring it to the office and calibrate it
against the doctor's machine. Theoretically, an old fashioned
mercury manometer is the gold standard, not the aneroid type. I
used to have a metal "Y" tube to channel the cuff air to
two gauges simultaneously to see if both gauges were the same. Meanwhile,
there is a good article on blood pressure in Wikepedia
which will surprise you with the notion of intra-arterial versus
Questions and comments welcome: Richard@DoctorGrayson.com