Avoiding blood pressure measurement errors – Part 2


Several years ago, I wrote about possible sources of measurement errors in testing one’s blood pressure (see Avoiding blood pressure measurement errors).

Since then, I have kept a very careful record of my own blood pressure readings from which an observation has emerged. There is “noise” in the readings process that imparts an essentially Gaussian distribution to the measurement results (Figure 1):

Figure 1 Systolic pressure readings.

There were 243 readings of 130 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), 10 readings of 101 mm Hg and 2 readings of 170 mm Hg. When individual readings came on the lower side of this bell curve, I had the impulse to feel very comfy about it but when readings came on the upper side, I sometimes wondered if I should be making tracks to the local emergency room (ER).

Neither reaction on my part was warranted though. My doctor had repeatedly told me that it’s the average of the readings that matters and from the above result, it looks like he was quite right. 

John Dunn is an electronics consultant, and a graduate of The Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn (BSEE) and of New York University (MSEE).

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