The Right (and Wrong) Way to Take Your Blood Pressure
One way to decrease your risk of heart disease is to maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Measuring your blood pressure at home is a good way for you to keep track of your readings and then you can share your results with your medical provider(s).
The information can then be used to assess how well your blood pressure is under control and how well your diet, lifestyle, and medications are working.
However, if you take your blood pressure incorrectly, you can get a false low or false high reading.
What can you do make sure you get the most accurate blood pressure reading?
Here are some tips:
1. Have the correct cuff size. Measure around the midpoint of the upper arm.
Measurement of Arm Circumference (Adult)
Size of Cuff Needed
Small Adult Cuff
Regular Adult Cuff
Large Adult Cuff
If the cuff is too small, your blood pressure reading can be overestimated (false high) by as much as 20-30 mm Hg.
If the cuff is too large, your blood pressure reading can be underestimated (false low).
2. Remeasure the arm periodically to make sure you have the correct cuff size. This is especially important if there has been a significant weight gain or weight loss.
3. Avoid using tobacco products or beverages that contain caffeine for at least 30 minutes before taking a measurement. These activities can increase your blood pressure.
4. Wait 10-15 minutes after a bath and 30 minutes after eating to measure your blood pressure. These activities can lower your blood pressure.
5. Allow time to relax. When you feel stressed or pressured, your blood pressure can increase.
6. Have the proper environment. Make sure the room is at a comfortable temperature (not too hot or too cold). Sit in a comfortable chair, with your back supported and your feet straight ahead and flat on the floor. Rest for at least 5 minutes, without talking, before taking a measurement.
7. Have your blood pressure monitor checked at least every year. This will ensure that the machine is reading accurately. Recalibration may be necessary.
Blood pressure monitors that go on the finger are not recommended because they are less accurate.
Blood pressure monitors that go on the wrist can be used in people who are obese because the diameter of the wrist is less affected by obesity. If the arm circumference (measured around the midpoint of the upper arm) is greater than 45 cm, a wrist cuff can be used.
When using a wrist cuff, hold the wrist at heart level during the reading. Support the arm with a table or pillow to keep the wrist at an appropriate level.
These are just some of things you can do to help ensure you get the most accurate blood pressure reading at home.
If you have any further questions, please comment below.
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Beradi, R., Ferreri, S., Hume, A., Kroon, L., Newton, G., Popovich, N., Remington, T., Rollins, C., Shimp, L. and Tietze, K., 2009. Handbook of nonprescription drugs. 16th ed. Washington, D.C.: American Pharmacists Association, pp.939-942.