Next time you have your blood pressure checked, you might want to take a number of factors into account.
Talking while the cuff is on can boost your blood pressure reading. So can a full bladder or crossing your legs, the American Heart Association (AHA) says.
"These simple things can make a difference in whether or not a person is classified as having high blood pressure that requires treatment," said Dr Michael Hochman, a member of the heart association's blood pressure task force. He's also an associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California.
"Knowing how to measure blood pressure accurately at home, and recognizing mistakes in the physician's office, can help you manage your pressure and avoid unnecessary medication changes," Dr Hochman said in an AHA news release.
Here, the heart association outlines seven common culprits that can alter your blood pressure reading:
1. A full bladder
Having a full bladder can add 10 to 15 points to a blood pressure reading. Always try to use the bathroom before getting a reading.
2. No support for your feet
Poor support for your feet or back while seated can raise your blood pressure reading by six to 10 points. You should sit in a chair with your back supported and feet flat on the floor or a footstool.
3. Leg movement
Crossing your legs can add two to eight points to your reading.
4. Hanging arm
If your arm hangs by your side or you must hold it up while getting a reading, your blood pressure numbers may be 10 points higher than the actual figure. Your arm should be on a chair or counter so that the blood pressure cuff is level with your heart.
5. Misplaced cuff
Having the cuff placed over clothing can add five to 50 points to your reading. The cuff should be on a bare arm.
6. Wrong sized cuff
A too-small cuff can add two to 10 points to a reading. Make sure that the cuff feels comfortable and not too tight and communicate with your doctor if it is.
7. Talking during the reading
Talking can add 10 points to your reading. Remain still and silent while your blood pressure is taken.
Image credit: iStock