When you check your blood pressure at home, are you sure your readings are accurate?
Many people now use an automatic blood pressure machine to check their blood pressure at home.
And most of the time, the blood pressure that we all desire to see is 120/80mmHg, which is normal blood pressure.
But the question you should ask yourself is:
“Are my blood pressure readings correct?”
One thing you need to know is that blood pressure is not constant, and many factors affect it, such as
- Your mood, mental or emotional state
- The intensity of your activities
- Body posture
- The type of food you consume
- Age Etc.
Simple changes like your mood can cause blood pressure to swing between 5 – 40 mmHg.
Even among health care providers, blood pressure readings are one of the most inaccurately performed measurements.
A false reading means you could be placed on the wrong medications or dosages.
Taking an average of your readings over time determines your “True blood pressure.”
Let’s honestly look at the mistakes you need to avoid when you check your blood pressure.
1. Placing the cuff over clothing when checking blood pressure.
What you wear determines the accuracy of your blood pressure readings. Wearing tight clothing or long sleeves can increase your blood pressure.
Putting a cuff over clothing can affect the accuracy of the reading, depending on the thickness of the fabric. Thick fabric will give a less accurate result than light fabric.
Studies have shown that systolic blood pressure can increase by as much as 10 – 50mgHg. So the best thing you can do is to wear a short-sleeve shirt or dress whenever you want to check your blood pressure.
2. Wrong cuff size.
It is important to use the proper cuff size whenever you want to check your blood pressure. Using the wrong cuff size will give you false readings, which is not good for your health.
The width of the inflatable part of the blood pressure should cover about 40% of the arm circumference and 80% of the area from your elbow to your shoulder.
A BP cuff that is large will give falsely low readings, while an overly small cuff will cause the systolic blood pressure measurement to increase by 10 to 40 mmHg.
Use longer and wider cuffs for obese or fat people.
3. Incorrect arm position.
The second most common error in BP measurement is the incorrect position of the arm.
The standard reference level for measurement of blood pressure by any technique, direct or indirect, is at the level of the heart. When using a cuff, the arm (or leg) where the cuff is applied must be at mid-heart level.
When the arm is above the heart level, the reading will be falsely low. When the arm is held below the heart level, the blood pressure reading will be falsely high.
The most accurate position is to be seated in an upright position with your arm at your side.
Don’t let your arm dangle or rest in your lap during the reading. A surface should support it such as a desk.
4. Inaccurate blood pressure machine, i.e. not validated.
Using an inaccurate blood pressure machine will definitely give you wrong readings. It is best to take your blood pressure machine to your health care provider to determine its accuracy.
5. You did not rest before checking your blood pressure.
Checking your blood pressure immediately after exercise or not resting for 3 – 5 minutes will cause a high blood pressure reading. Don’t exercise, consume caffeine or smoke within 30 minutes of your test.
6. Talking during measurement.
Talking when you check your blood pressure can increase your systolic blood pressure measurement by 10 to 15 mmHg. A study showed that heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure were all significantly greater while the patients were speaking than while they were resting silently.
7. Deflating the cuff too quickly when checking blood pressure.
Deflating the cuff at a rate of over 2 mmHg per second can cause the systolic pressure to appear lower and the diastolic pressure to appear higher.
The American Heart Association recommends that the cuff be inflated to at least 30 mm Hg above the point at which the radial pulse disappears.
8. Rate of inflation and deflation.
The rate of inflation or deflation affects the accuracy of blood pressure readings. When you deflate too slowly, the diastolic reading will be high. This is only important if you are using a manual blood pressure machine to measure your blood pressure.
Also, re-inflating the cuff to repeat the measurement before it is fully deflated will give you the wrong blood pressure readings.
9. Rounding off actual reading by over 2 mmHg when recording the measurement.
Rounding off the actual reading to zero can increase the likelihood of being placed on drug treatment, and can be a major source of inaccuracy in measuring blood pressure. So, whenever you are checking your blood pressure at home, write the actual readings.
10. Taking a single measurement when you check your blood pressure.
Each time you measure your blood pressure, take 2 – 3 readings. Most of the time, the first reading is always high. To check the accuracy, you repeat reading one to three minutes after the first reading. Always write the readings.
Also, measure your blood pressure twice daily at the same time each day. The first measurement should be in the morning before eating or taking any medications, and the second in the evening. Each time you measure, take two or three readings to make sure your results are accurate.
11. Full bladder
Your blood pressure changes depending on if your bladder is full or empty. It is lower when your bladder is empty and increases as your bladder fill up. The difference could be as much as 10 to 15 mmHg. Always empty your bladder before you measure your blood pressure.
12. Wrong body position
Sitting with crossed legs could increase a BP reading by 2 to 8 points. It’s best to uncross your legs and ensure your feet are supported. Poor sitting position and slouching can increase your blood pressure readings. Make sure you are in a chair with your back supported and your feet flat on the floor or a footstool.
It is so easy to make these mistakes unconsciously. Use this article as a checklist. I suggest you print it out and pin it in a place where you can easily see it. Many people are equally making the same mistakes, so share this article with as many people as possible.