Monday, May 11, 2009

Inconsistent Blood Pressure Readings

QUESTION: Despite my best efforts, I keep getting different readings each time I take my own blood pressure at home.
Do you have any ideas on what I am doing wrong? Please help.

ANSWER: There are many things patients and sometimes even doctors and nurses do wrong when taking blood pressure.
The result can be inaccurate and inconsistent readings.
First of all, you should make sure you are comfortable before taking your blood pressure.
The American Heart Association recommends that prior to taking the measurement, you relax in a quiet room for a half hour.
During that time, avoid anxiety, exertion, eating or smoking, and be sure your bladder is empty.
Wear loose fitting clothes so that the flow of blood is unrestricted, and don't cross your legs or fold your arms.
Try to relax your arm muscles as much as possible, as muscle tension can lead to distorted blood pressure readings. Always take your blood pressure while you are in the same position, whether it be sitting, standing or lying down, and use the same arm.
Make sure you have the proper size cuff for your arm.
A cuff too narrow could give you a false high reading, while one that is too wide will give you a false low pressure reading.
Inflate the cuff rapidly (in 7 to 10 seconds) to minimize trapping of venous blood a common cause of false readings. Have a doctor or nurse show you the proper way to read your measurement. Don't be shy; if you don't understand, ask again until you get it right.

The material contained here is "FOR INFORMATION ONLY" and should not replace the counsel and advice of your personal physician.
Promptly consulting your doctor is the best path to a quick and successful resolution of any medical problem.