Taking a blood pressure reading is common these days, whether in your home of getting it measured in a clinic. It is important to measure your reading correctly as there can be a difference of as high as 10% based on way of measuring. This difference can lead to incorrect decisions about your medication plan.
There are guidelines on the right mechanism for measuring blood pressure. You can follow these and even inform your doctor or nurse if they are not following the guidelines.
Here’s what you can do to ensure a correct reading:
- Don’t drink a caffeinated beverage or smoke during the 30 minutes before the test.
- Sit quietly for five minutes before the test begins.
- During the measurement, sit in a chair with your feet on the floor and your arm supported so your elbow is at about heart level.
- The inflatable part of the cuff should completely cover at least 80% of your upper arm, and the cuff should be placed on bare skin, not over a shirt.
- Don’t talk during the measurement.
- Have your blood pressure measured twice, with a brief break in between. If the readings are different by 5 points or more, have it done a third time.
There are times to break these rules. If you sometimes feel lightheaded when getting out of bed in the morning or when you stand after sitting, you should have your blood pressure checked while seated and then while standing to see if it falls from one position to the next.
Because blood pressure varies throughout the day, your doctor will rarely diagnose hypertension on the basis of a single reading. Instead, he or she will want to confirm the measurements on at least two occasions, usually within a few weeks of one another. The exception to this rule is if you have a blood pressure reading of 180/110 mm Hg or higher. A result this high BP usually calls for prompt treatment.
It’s also a good idea to have your blood pressure measured in both arms at least once, since the reading in one arm (usually the right) may be higher than that in the left. The higher number should be used to make treatment decisions.
In general, blood pressures between 160/100 mm Hg and 179/109 mm Hg should be rechecked within two weeks, while measurements between 140/90 and 159/99 should be repeated within four weeks. People in the prehypertension category (between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg) should be rechecked within four to six months, and those with a normal reading (less than 120/80 mm Hg) should be rechecked annually. However, your doctor may schedule a follow-up visit sooner if your previous blood pressure measurements were considerably lower; if signs of damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes are present; or if you have other cardiovascular risk factors. Also, most doctors routinely check your blood pressure whenever you go in for an office visit.