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How can I control my blood pressure enough to continue donating blood?

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So, for a few months, I have been donating plasma. There is a blood pressure requirement to be able to donate. My readings had always come out rather high on their machine, so I actually went to my doctor, who said they were not accurate. For example, a reading on the plasma center machine was 163/101 the day after I went to the doctor, where it was 140/80. The cutoff for donating is 180/100.

Well, I thought perhaps it was white coat syndrome for the plasma center and as you are allowed to try again the next day if your readings are out of range. It has been three weeks since I have been able to donate, getting deferred for my blood pressure every time. I tried downloading the track 'Lower Your Blood Pressure', hoping that would help. When I tried donating recently, my reading on their machine was 170/121.

Is this more of a panic thing vs. white coat syndrome? Should I be trying a different download? I know it seems silly, but this is a source of income for my family and I just can't understand why I am having so much trouble all of a sudden after being fine (well, still high but in an allowable range) for so long. :-(

I do feel a sense of dread now in my chest/stomach going in, knowing I will be walking right out. This seems so silly, I can't understand why my body is responding this way.

This question was submitted by 'Laura'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hello Laura and thank you for writing in.

White coat syndrome is indeed a common response to having blood pressure readings taken. The psychological expectation and stress of the reading changes the reading. This is a form of performance anxiety and a good (or not so good) example of how powerfully the mind can influence the body.

I'm sure you know that blood pressure naturally alters at different times of the day. For example, blood pressure is usually lower at night whilst you sleep and rises in the hours before you awaken. It continues to rise throughout the day and usually peaks in the middle of the afternoon. In the late afternoon and into the evening, your blood pressure starts dropping again. So giving plasma in the morning, late afternoon, or evening should produce a naturally lower reading than mid-afternoon or midday.

Obviously tobacco, too much stress or caffeine, too little sleep, and so on will all affect blood pressure. It may be that you have been a bit under the weather physically recently, just not quite as healthy, and that may have affected your readings and caused you then to worry about it. It's also important to consider that relaxing deeply every day, even for just ten minutes will help lower your general arousal levels, making you more likely to relax during blood pressure readings.

I suggest you keep listening to 'Lower Your Blood Pressure' for a little longer until things normalize again. You can always claim a refund or swap it for another session. Remember that the way we breathe will directly and quickly influence blood pressure, so it may be useful to practice visualizing having your reading taken whilst listening to the '7-11 Breathing Exercise' download.

All the very best and I'd love to hear how you get on.

Mark

watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - December 12th, 2014 in

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