Taking Your Own Blood Pressure Is Easy, But Avoid These Common Mistakes For Accurate Readings
Taking your blood pressure at home is an excellent way to monitor your heart health. But several common mistakes lead to inaccurate results. Healthcare professionals sometimes overlook the best protocols when measuring their patients’ blood pressure. Let’s take a look at common mistakes when taking a blood pressure measurement and how you can avoid them.
Monitoring Blood Pressure Is Important
Blood pressure is a key indicator of your cardiovascular health. That’s because high blood pressure is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease. It’s important to check your blood pressure regularly and accurately because early detection of high blood pressure is the first step to lowering your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and ensuring that you receive appropriate care.
7 Common Measurement Mistakes
According to American Heart Association, even healthcare professionals don’t always follow the proper techniques to get an accurate reading of a patient’s blood pressure. The organization identified seven comment mistakes made when measuring blood pressure that can lead to an inaccurate measurement:
1. Having a full bladder can increase your reading by as many as 15 points. Try to empty your bladder before having your blood pressure measured.
2. Having no support for your back or feet, or slouching when seated, can add up to 10 points to your reading. Make sure you’re sitting in a chair with your back supported and your feet are flat on the floor or resting on a footstool.
3. Sitting with your legs crossed can increase your blood pressure reading by as many as 8 points because the position squeezes the large veins in your legs. Be sure to sit with your legs uncrossed and your feet supported.
4. Having no support for your arm can add up to 10 points to your blood pressure measurement. Position your arm on a chair arm or a counter, making sure the measurement cuff is level with your heart.
5. Wrapping the cuff over your clothing can add 5 to 50 points to your reading. You’ll get a more accurate reading if there’s no clothing between your skin and the cuff.
6. Using a cuff that is too small can increase your reading by as many as 10 points. If the cuff feels too small or too large, ask your healthcare professional making the reading to confirm that the duff is the right size for you. If you measure your blood pressure at home, your healthcare provider can help you find the right size cuff to use.
7. Talking can add up to 10 points to your measurement. Stay still and avoid answering questions or talking on your phone while your blood pressure is being measured.
Avoiding these common errors when having your blood pressure measured, whether the measurement is taken by a healthcare professional or yourself, will help ensure an accurate reading.
Additional Steps to Assure Accuracy
Another common mistake made in doctors’ offices is measuring a patient’s blood pressure as soon as they sit down in the examining room or immediately after asking them health questions. At a doctor’s office or at home, it’s best to sit quietly for a few minutes to settle down before measuring your blood pressure.
It’s also important to know that blood pressure fluctuates from day and hour to hour. It can even change from minute to minute. These fluctuations are nothing to worry about if they’re within the normal range. If your blood pressure measurement is 130/80 or higher — which is considered Stage 1 high blood pressure — it’s important to take a second measurement and average the two. Current blood pressure measurement guidelines recommend waiting one minute after the first reading to take a second reading.
If the systolic value (the first number in the reading) of the first and second reading is more than about 10 points apart, our founder, Mayo-clinic-trained cardiologist Dr. Herbert Semler, takes a third reading and averages all three. This process provides a more accurate measurement of your average blood pressure.
Keeping Track of Your Blood Pressure
Because high blood pressure is a major cause of heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes, monitoring your blood pressure is extremely important. It’s essential to take accurate measurements and keep accurate records. One easy way to keep track of your blood pressure readings is to use the Semler Heart Club app. This all-in-one, cardiologist-designed app helps you record your blood pressure readings, as well as count your daily steps to monitor your fitness. Learn more about how Heart Club can help you monitor and improve your general heart health.