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How to Take Your Blood Pressure - Guide to Accurate Results

by Patty Weasler, RN November 19, 2018 0 Comments

taking blood pressure with upper arm cuff

Knowing how to properly take your blood pressure is the first step to monitoring your overall health. Inaccurate readings can be misleading or set off false alarms. If you’ve just started taking measurements at home with a digital monitor, it’s important to follow these simple steps to ensure that you’re getting the most accurate results and properly managing your blood pressure.

How to Use a Digital Upper Arm Blood Pressure Cuff

Using an upper arm digital blood pressure monitor is one of the easiest and most common ways to track your blood pressure at home. Avoid simple mistakes, once your monitor is set up and you are ready to take your first reading, remember to follow these steps in order to achieve the most accurate results.

  1. Sit down in a chair next to a table with your feet flat on the ground.
  2. Place the blood pressure cuff on your arm directly above the bend in your elbow.
  3. Adjust the cuff so that the tubing is facing your inner arm and turned slightly towards your little finger.
  4. Rest your arm on the table, upper arm should be heart level and with your palm facing upwards.
  5. Rest for five minutes before taking your first blood pressure.
  6. Once you’re relaxed press start on your monitor to begin taking blood pressure.

8 Tips for Taking Your Blood Pressure

When taking your blood pressure without the help of a medical professional, it’s important to familiarize yourself with the most common Do’s and Don’ts to ensure you’re receiving the most accurate results possible.

1. Don’t cross your legs

How you sit during a blood pressure reading can considerably affect your blood pressure. Don’t cross your legs and sit in a chair with a high back, like a dining room table chair. Keep both of your feet flat on the floor during your reading.

2. Do take your blood pressure at the same time each day

The best time to take blood pressure readings is in the morning or evening. Take your blood pressure twice a day and choose a schedule that you can be consistent with. This will reduce the likelihood of you forgetting to take your blood pressure and keep a more accurate trend for your doctor. Don’t take it immediately after waking up. When to take your blood pressure is just as important as how you take your blood pressure.

3. Don’t consume caffeine, alcohol, smoke, or exercise before taking your blood pressure

Stay away from caffeine, smoking, alcohol, and exercise for at least 30 minutes before you take your blood pressure. All of these things can affect your numbers and will not give you an accurate picture of your average blood pressure.

4. Don’t measure your blood pressure over clothes

The proper way to take blood pressure readings is to do it without clothes under the cuff. It’s important to learn how to use a blood pressure cuff since clothes will interfere with the fit of the cuff. This will make it difficult for the monitor to sense your pulse during the blood pressure reading.

5. Do measure your blood pressure on the the same arm

When you’ve chosen which arm to take blood pressure readings on, stick with that arm for consistency. Studies have shown there can be small discrepancies in blood pressure readings between arms and as long as it is 10mm Hg or less there is no need to be concerned. For long term blood pressure trending it’s helpful to have consistent data from the same arm.

6. Don’t use a blood pressure cuff that doesn’t fit

As you are learning how to take blood pressure readings at home remind yourself to always check the cuff after placing it on your arm. An ill-fitted cuff is a common cause of inaccurate blood pressure readouts. You should be able to slide one finger under the cuff. If the cuff is too tight or too loose adjust it for a better fit. Some users might need larger or smaller cuff sizes.

7. Do take multiple readings

Every time you take your blood pressure take two to three readings at least one minute apart. Your blood pressure is constantly fluctuating so it is important to avoid getting one quick snapshot and instead see the overall picture with multiple readings.

8. Don’t talk or move during the reading

Enjoy a few minutes of restful quiet time before you take your blood pressure. Movement, talking, and even thinking about stressful things can cause the monitor to inaccurately read your blood pressure. We want you to get blood pressure readings that are accurate and will help you and your doctor to manage your blood pressure most effectively.

Learn more about understanding your blood pressure readings here!

Accurately Monitoring Your Blood Pressure

Following these steps and avoiding the most common mistakes will keep your results consistent and accurate. However, if you're still having difficulty getting accurate results, bring your monitor with your to your next doctor's appointment and have your physician check the accuracy against their devices.   

Sources:

https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings/monitoring-your-blood-pressure-at-home

https://www.heart.org/-/media/files/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/how-to-measure-blood-pressure-letter-size-ucm_445846.pdf?la=en&hash=C77CA4D8EC3720A696F77C7A8C5066866B19C402

Patty Weasler, RN
Patty Weasler, RN

Patty Weasler is a freelance health writer and nurse. She is certified in critical care nursing and has been practicing for over 10 years. Patty lives in Milwaukee, WI with her husband and three children. She enjoys spending her time with family and educating people about their health.



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