How can I get an accurate blood pressure reading?

Internist Marc Lavin, MD from West Hills Hospital & Medical Center outlines the steps to getting an accurate blood pressure reading at home, including the type of monitor to use and how to position your body.
Randy N. Bergman, MD
Internal Medicine
Going to the physician’s office is a great way to get an accurate blood pressure reading, says Randy Bergman, MD, of Northeast Methodist Hospital. Watch this video to learn about the importance of knowing your blood pressure on a daily basis.
Mina W. Ma, MD
Internal Medicine
According to the American Heart Association, you can get an accurate blood pressure reading by doing the following:
  • Don't smoke, exercise, drink caffeinated beverages or alcohol within 30 minutes of the reading.
  • Rest in a chair for at least 5 minutes with your left arm resting comfortably on a flat surface at heart level. Sit calmly and don't talk. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor with your back straight and supported.
  • Use properly calibrated and validated instruments. Check the cuff size and fit.
  • Every time you measure, take 3 readings, separated by at least 1 minute and record all the results.
  • Try to take readings in the early morning and evening.
Karon R. LoCicero, MD
Internal Medicine
It's very important to get an accurate blood pressure reading, says Karon LoCicero, MD, of Memorial Hospital of Tampa. In this video, she gives tips on how to check someone's blood pressure.
Sam Diasti, MD
Internal Medicine
To get an accurate blood pressure reading, be in a sitting position with your arm at the heart level and be relaxed. In this video, Sam Diasti, MD, an internist at Memorial Hospital of Tampa, says that an elevated first reading should be taken again.
Terry W. Smith, MD
Family Medicine
To get an accurate blood pressure reading, make sure you have been sitting for several minutes. The arm should be outstretched with the appropriate-sized blood pressure cuff. A blood pressure cuff that measures at the wrist isn’t trustworthy; blood pressure reading should be taken above the elbow.
HealthyWomen
Administration
You can get an accurate blood pressure reading with these tips:
  • Don't have coffee (or any form of caffeine) and don't smoke 30 minutes before a reading.
  • Don't talk or eat while you check.
  • Sit with your back supported and both feet on the floor.
  • Get the cuff on your bare arm, not over your sleeve.
  • Take more than one reading, especially if you get unusual numbers. All kinds of factors, from exercise to cold weather, can throw your blood pressure off.
 Dr. Kathleen Handal, MD
Emergency Medicine
When you monitor your own blood pressure at home, which you must if you are on blood pressure medication, here are some tips to help ensure an accurate reading:
  • Avoid caffeine and smoking for 30 minutes prior to taking your blood pressure.
  • Sit quietly (don’t talk) with both feet flat on the floor for at least three minutes before you inflate the cuff. It is important to feel relaxed when your blood pressure is taken because stress raises your blood pressure.
  • Avoid certain foods and activities prior to taking your blood pressure. Please, don’t take your blood pressure after you’ve gulped down a coffee, eaten a meal or had a bowel movement. A blood pressure reading taken shortly after any one of these actions will most likely be higher.
  • Use your right arm for blood pressure readings, unless there is a medical reason not to, such as an injury, weakness, recent procedure or breast surgery with lymph node removal.
  • Wait at least two minutes between readings or the second reading may be inaccurate.
Remember: If you are taking blood pressure medication that is not working as you know it should, get medical help. A blood pressure reading of 180/110 is a medical emergency!
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Ozgen Dogan
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Before your blood pressure is measured, sit for five minutes. Then, your arm should be stretched out at heart level. Your feet should be on the floor and you should be leaning back. The blood pressure monitor cuff should be doubled around your upper arm, covering 80% of it. If the cuff is smaller, your blood pressure may measure higher than it really is. If you buy an electronic device for home, for best results, choose the one that fits over the elbow. Refrain from coffee, tea or cigarettes for 30 minutes before the test.
Intermountain Healthcare
Administration
The following are tips on how to get an accurate reading of your blood pressure:
  • Sit quietly for 5 minutes before taking your blood pressure, with both feet flat on the floor. Rest your arm on a table or arm of a chair.
  • Wait at least a half hour after eating, drinking caffeine, or exercising.
  • Place the cuff in the correct position on your arm. Follow the instructions provided with the monitor.
R M. Firth, MD
Family Medicine
It’s vital that blood pressure measurement is accurate. You don’t want your blood pressure treatment to be based on incorrect measurements. Here are some tips to ensure you get the most accurate readings possible:
  • Use a blood pressure machine that’s been compared to the one used in your healthcare provider’s office. To continue to ensure accurate home blood pressure measurements, have your healthcare provider check your monitor about every six months. If you drop the monitor, or readings change abruptly, have it checked right away.
  • Try to get readings at a consistent time each day--usually morning or evening. Your blood pressure can fluctuate by 20-30 mmHg at various times of the day and can change based on what you’re doing.
  • Don’t take your blood pressure within a half hour of eating a heavy meal, drinking caffeine, exercising, or using tobacco products. These things can temporarily raise your blood pressure.
  • Remove jewelry or clothing that interferes with cuff placement.
  • Make sure the blood pressure cuff is the correct size for your arm, and that it’s positioned correctly with no wrinkles in the cuff.
  • Sit quietly for 5 minutes or more, with both feet flat on the floor, before taking your blood pressure. If possible, rest your arm at heart level on a table or arm of a chair.
  • Take 3 readings about 5 minutes apart.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.