5 Tricks For An Accurate Blood-Pressure Reading
An inaccurate blood-pressure reading can cause more trouble than no reading at all—and everything from your shirtsleeve to your last meal to how you sit can skew the score. Follow these tips for a true measure.
Shed Your Outer LayersNurses and doctors don't always ask you to take off your shirt before measuring your blood pressure, but wearing a sweatshirt or bulky sweater could lead to an artificially raised reading. Thick sleeves boosted systolic pressure measurements by as much as 22 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) in men with high blood pressure in a Tel Aviv University study. Dress shirts and thin sweaters are fine; a study in the journal Blood Pressure revealed that measurements taken over bare skin were the same as those taken through sleeves less than 2 mm thick.
Elevate Your Arm to Heart LevelThe blood-pressure guidelines set forth by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute are based on measurements taken from people holding their arms at heart level. Most doctors and nurses slap the cuff on your arm when it's resting on a desk or chair, which can raise both diastolic and systolic pressure by six to nine points, according to a study by Dutch researchers.
Sit for 16In a study published in the American Journal of Hypertension, researchers discovered that patients who sat for 16 minutes before having their blood pressure checked received more accurate readings than those who sat for less time. When you stand or move around, your blood vessels constrict, and the longer you sit, the more time they have to return to normal size, lowering blood pressure.
Hit the Men's RoomHolding back your bladder can artificially raise your blood-pressure reading by making your nervous system think you're stressed.
Avoid Finger CuffsAll our experts panned finger cuffs. "The closer to your trunk, the more accurate monitors become," says John Elefteriades, M.D., chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Yale. Finger cuffs are also susceptible to shifts in body temperature and finger position.