7 Simple Tips to Get an Accurate Blood Pressure Reading
Approximately one-third of US adults have hypertension, and more than two-thirds of this group are unaware they are affected. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer” because high blood pressure frequently harms the body without causing visible symptoms.
Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, kidney damage, vision loss, memory loss, fluid in the lungs, angina, erectile dysfunction, peripheral artery disease, and damage to the heart and coronary arteries.
Blood pressure is the force exerted on the inner walls of blood vessels as the heart pumps blood to all parts of the body.
When measuring blood pressure, systolic pressure, the force measured as the heart contracts and pushes blood out of its chambers, is recorded as the upper reading; diastolic pressure, the force measured as the heart relaxes between contractions, is recorded as the lower reading.
Adult blood pressure is considered normal at 120/80.
Anyone diagnosed with high blood pressure by a healthcare professional, older adults with varying blood pressure, those with diabetes, and people who may get anxious in a doctor’s office or hospital setting should consider measuring their blood pressure at home in addition to their regularly scheduled doctor visits.
Blood pressure can be measured manually or automatically (digitally). A stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer are needed to take blood pressure manually with an aneroid sphygmomanometer. The stethoscope is not necessary when taking blood pressure with an automated digital blood pressure monitor.
Helpful Tips to Get an Accurate Blood Pressure Reading
Take your blood pressure at the same time each day.
Blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the course of the day. If a patient’s blood pressure needs to be checked regularly, try to do so at the same approximate time each day. Levels are typically lowest in the morning and rise steadily throughout the day.
- Ensure proper cuff placement and size.
Wrap the cuff around the patient’s arm one inch above the inside of the elbow, preferably on bare skin without any clothing constricting the arm. Systolic pressure measurement can increase by up to 40 mmHg when the cuff is placed over clothing. A tape measure can be used to measure the arm circumference, or the index line on the BP cuff should signify whether the patient’s arm circumference fits within the cuff’s size range. If two cuff sizes fit, use the larger one. Improper cuff size can result in inaccurate measurement.
- Don’t have a conversation during the reading.
Talking can raise systolic pressure by up to 15 mmHg.
- Avoid factors that can increase blood pressure.
Tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and physical activity/exercise should be avoided for at least thirty minutes before taking measurement, as these activities can cause blood pressure to spike temporarily. Other factors that can influence blood pressure reading include stress, cold temperatures, a full stomach, pain, labored breathing, and some short-term and long-term medicines.
- Rest for 5 minutes before taking the reading.
Sit down. Relax your entire body, especially the area between your elbow and fingers. Sit upright with back supported, feet flat on the floor, and legs uncrossed.
- Support the arm at heart level.
Place your elbow on a table so that the cuff is at the same level as your heart (slightly below your armpit). Turn your palm upward. Keep the arm still during the measurement cycle.
- Don’t deflate the cuff too quickly.
Some blood pressure devices can automatically control the rate at which the pressure falls, but generally the patient’s pressure should decrease about 2 to 3 mm Hg per second.
It is important that you consult with your physician regularly, and whenever you have questions about your blood pressure. Your physician will tell you your normal blood pressure range as well as the point at which you will be considered at risk.
Tamara Prossick, RN, BSN, AMS is a Product Planning & Development Specialist at Graham-Field.
About GF Health Products, Inc.
Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with more than 300 US-based employees, GF Health Products, Inc. is a major manufacturer of healthcare products for the acute care, extended care, homecare and primary care markets. The Graham-Field family of brands includes Basic American Medical Products, Everest & Jennings, Grafco, Hausted, John Bunn, Labtron, Lumex and Lumiscope. Visit www.grahamfield.com or call 770-368-4700.