blood pressure chart

10 Tips To Getting an Accurate Blood Pressure Reading

Eli Ben-yehuda

Written by Eli Ben-yehuda

On April 8, 2019

Getting an accurate blood pressure reading is a vital aspect of getting a physical exam. When I was in nursing school we were not allowed to go near a clinic, or patient until we demonstrated that we could perform this exam accurately. That is how important getting an accurate blood pressure reading is.

New guidelines from the American Medical Association spell out in great detail the proper way to take a patient’s accurate blood pressure reading.

AMA Blood Pressure Reading Guidlines

First, you need to be seated in a chair with your feet on the floor. You should sit there quietly, without talking, for about 5 minutes. And don’t cross your legs. Ensure that the Nurse or nurses assistant is taking your blood pressure reading correctly. This means no answering questions while they are taking your blood pressure.

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When the BP reading is taken, your arm should be supported by something, like a table, and it should be roughly at the level of your heart. Also, the blood pressure cuff should not be over any clothing.
Chances are you’ve never had your blood pressure taken this way.

There are a few things you can do to help ensure an accurate reading:

  • Don’t eat or exercise before your blood pressure is taken
  • No caffeinated beverages 30 minutes before
  • Make sure you don’t feel the need to go to the bathroom. A full bladder can raise blood pressure.
  • “All of these things probably have just a small effect on your blood pressure, but because your blood pressure is so important, we need to know what it actually is and we need to do it right to get that number,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, head of the editorial board at the UC Berkeley Wellness Letter.

    Why Is My Blood Pressure High When I Visit My Doctor?

    If your blood pressure is higher than normal when you go to visit your doctor, there are three questions your physician should ask you.

    “Was I rushing to get here or physically active right before this appointment?” Multiple factors can influence blood pressure measurement, so you should have time to rest before having your blood pressure checked and you should be sitting quietly.

    “Have you been taking your medication?” If you are on medication for high blood pressure, it’s important to be taking it. Costs, complicated regimens, and side effects can all be reasons why people stop using their medication, so make sure you take it as prescribed. If you are having trouble discuss any factors that prevent you from sticking with the plan with your physician.

    “What’s your diet and physical activity regimen like?” If you don’t choose healthy foods or abstains from physical activity, find out why. You can find community resources that can help you with proper diet and exercise. Learn how eating healthy foods and staying active can help lower blood pressure.

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    Ensuring Optimal Blood Pressure Reading

    Remember these very important points when getting your blood pressure taken at home or in the doctor’s office.

  • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor, and legs are uncrossed.
  • Ensure your arm and back are properly supported.
  • Use the restroom before getting your reading a full bladder can elevate your reading.
  • Sit comfortably remain still.
  • Make sure your arm is bare, and the blood pressure cuff is on the skin, not over any clothing.
  • Don’t talk while getting your reading done.
  • Wait for at least three minutes of prior to the measurement. Take a quiet moment first.
  • If you talk during the measurement, for example, or if your feet aren’t flat on the floor, there’s a chance that blood pressure measurement will give a falsely high reading. This could lead to a prescription for unnecessary medication.

    At the same time, other factors can contribute to unidentified and untreated hypertension, which can be deadly. Even when you visit your doctor please request that the staff follow these guidelines if they are not already. But be polite when asking them. Clinics today are overloaded and hectic and the staff is usually stressed.

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