Is Your Blood Pressure Being Measured Correctly?

Is Your Blood Pressure Being Measured Correctly?

Is Your Blood Pressure Being Measured Correctly?

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a serious health problem that often has no symptoms. Often called "the silent killer" it doesn't always have symptoms. You can have high blood pressure for years and not even know it.

It’s important to know if you do. Left untreated, it can cause serious harm to your heart, kidneys and eyes. People with high blood pressure also have a greater risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke. 

Since high blood pressure usually doesn't cause noticeable symptoms, checking your blood pressure regularly is vital — even when you feel fine.

Whether you have your blood pressure checked at the doctor’s office or take it at home, it’s important to make sure it’s done right. Your care is based on the results. Measuring your blood pressure with care helps ensure accurate result.

Try these tips to get a good reading:

  • Don't exercise, drink caffeine or smoke within 30 minutes of checking your blood pressure.
  • Rest for five minutes before you take your reading.
  • Be still, sit up straight and keep your feet on the ground.
  • Support your arm on a desk or table. Keep it level with your heart. 
  • Pull your shirt sleeve up. You may not get an accurate reading over clothes.
  • Make sure the cuff is in the right place. The bottom should be just above the bend of your elbow.
  • Try two or three readings, especially if the first reading is high or low. Wait one to three minutes between readings. 
  • If you’re keeping track at home, track your numbers and share them with your doctor.

Even if you’re at the doctor’s office, don’t be afraid to speak up if you see your blood pressure isn’t being taken correctly. Ask to have it taken again if the reading is higher or lower than the normal range. Take charge of your health by making sure you get accurate results.

If you want to track of your blood pressure at home, get a home monitor with an arm cuff. Make sure the cuff fits right. Avoid finger and wrist monitors. Take it with you to your annual doctor’s visit to make sure the readings are right. Ask your doctor to watch you use your device to make sure you’re using it correctly.

If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about what changes you can make to keep it under control.

Your Blood Pressure and Your Health

Read Your Blood Pressure Has a Big Impact on Your Health to learn more about blood pressure and why it’s so important to know your numbers and keep them in a safe range.

Sources: The Facts About High Blood Pressure, leaving site icon American Heart Association, 2017; Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home, leaving site icon American Heart Association, 2017; Monitoring blood pressure at home, leaving site icon Harvard Medical School, 2022

Originally published 2/4/2021; Revised 2022

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