High blood pressure, after all, is a major risk factor for heart attack, kidney disease, vision loss and stroke. It’s often called the “silent killer” due to the way it causes substantial organ damage before any symptoms are detected.
To get accurate readings, try doing the following:
-- Eliminate distractions. Talking (as, for example, in answering a doctor’s questions) or feeling the urge to urinate or defecate can throw off a blood pressure reading.
-- Relax and sit quietly for a while. Blood pressure can be influenced by movement or anxiety. So it’s generally vital to sit quietly for 3-5 minutes before taking a reading. In one study, however, just 4 percent of health-care professionals followed this rule. Even if you have your own blood pressure monitor that you’re using at home, don’t rush the process.
-- Get the right cuff size for your arm. Many medical offices have just one standard-size cuff they use for all patients. But one that’s too small for your arm will give a false high blood pressure reading, and one that’s too big will give a false low reading. If you’re buying a blood pressure monitor for the home, make sure the cuff is the proper size.
-- Take readings on both arms. Some people have considerable differences in blood pressure between their two arms. The reason is unknown, but that’s why it’s important to get readings on both. The arm with the higher reading should be used for monitoring subsequently.
-- Take a reading; wait; take another. One blood pressure measurement may not be accurate. So get at least two readings, several minutes apart, and average them.
-- Make sure arms and feet are well-positioned. Improper body, arm and leg position can falsify blood pressure readings. To follow the guidelines and get the most accurate results, you should sit comfortably in a backrest chair – not on the examination table – with your feet flat on the floor, legs uncrossed. Your arm should be supported and resting at heart level.