21 May 2018

7 mistakes that can impact your blood pressure reading

Researchers at the American Heart Association have revealed simple mistakes we make while having our blood pressure taken that can affect the result.

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


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Dr Jacomien de Villiers qualified as a specialist physician at the University of Pretoria in 1995. She worked at various clinics at the Department of Internal Medicine, Steve Biko Hospital, these include General Internal Medicine, Hypertension, Diabetes and Cardiology. She has run a private practice since 2001, as well as a consultant post at the Endocrine Clinic of Steve Biko Hospital.

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