How to Take Blood Pressure Accurately at Home
When I first noticed the high blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office, I started wondering if it’s White Coat Hypertension or if I had persistent high blood pressure. Stopping by a local pharmacy, I decided to invest in a blood pressure monitor for home use.
Does Blood Pressure Cuff Size Matter? (It does!) So How do I Figure Out the Correct Size Blood Pressure Cuff for Me?
When choosing a blood pressure machine, one of the most important features is to make sure the cuff size is appropriate for your arm. It’s understandable to think it’s just about how it feels and whether the cuff “fits”, but the wrong cuff size can result in inaccurate blood pressure readings! Using a cuff that is too small can result in a higher reading than it should be (also it’s quite uncomfortable!). Using a cuff that is too big can result in a lower reading than it should be. So how do you figure out if the cuff size is right for you? When you shop for a blood pressure monitor online or in a physical store, there should be information on the box or in the online listing about what the “cuff range” is. That means, the size of your arm should fall within that range.
**Please note: use your left arm to take blood pressure**
Sometimes it can be hard to find what the cuff range is. On a physical box, you can usually locate it on the box itself. Online, you may want to check the product description or details section. If you can’t find it in the description, try clicking through the different product images (see #1 on image below), enlarge the image if possible (see #2 on image below), and then see if you can find it on the image of the box! To be completely sure, let’s say you want to buy it on Walmart or Amazon Prime’s website, but you still aren’t sure of the cuff range. You can look at the monitor’s brand and model number and see if you can find the cuff range information on the actual company website itself. For example: Omron is a well-known name in the United States for blood pressure monitors. If you go to their website, you can find information about each monitor and if you want further confirmation, there’s a customer service line you can call to ask!
The image below shows an example of how to find the cuff size in the additional images of an Amazon product. Note I am not specifically recommending this monitor; just using it as an example. #1 shows where the additional images are on Amazon for this product. #2 shows how the image enlarges when you click on it and sometimes you’ll find more information there!
How to Measure Your Arm for Blood Pressure Cuff
Now that you’ve found the blood pressure cuff size range, how do you measure your arm and determine what your size is? Take a look at my awesome drawing!
- Find a tape measure and wrap it around your left bicep: in the middle halfway between your shoulder and elbow. The goal is to figure out the circumference of your upper arm (basically how many inches or centimeters is it to go around your arm in a circle). Record the measurement. If you don’t have a tape measure, you can easily cut a strip of paper or a piece of string/yarn: wrap it around your mid upper arm as seen in the picture. Then you can measure with a ruler how long that piece that went around your arm is. Note: It’s quite challenging and not very safe to cut a the string or yarn without a 2nd person so please get some help with that.
- Now that you have the measurement for your arm, you can refer to the cuff size range on the box or monitor description and see if it falls within that range. So for example: if the range is “9 inches to 17 inches”, that means if your number has to be no smaller than 9 and no bigger than 17.
Body Positioning: The position of your body can affect blood pressure readings. Follow these steps (and see my awesome stick figure picture:
- Sit on a supportive chair that has back support. You want to be able to relax your back with the support of the chair without slouching down. Ideally, a dining room chair would offer that type of support.
- Place feet flat on the floor
- Prop your left arm up on a table that is approximately at the height of your heart.
Note: if your only option is the couch or sofa, consider using some pillows behind your back to allow you to sit more upright. Also you can use pillows to prop up your arm at the right level.
Tip: Once you’ve picked a spot and setup for taking blood pressure at home, keep it the same each time. That will make it easier for you to compare your readings.
Other Factors that Affect Blood Pressure
What Should I Watch Out for When Taking Blood Pressure?
- Give yourself at least 5 minutes of sitting quietly before taking blood pressure.
- Make sure the cuff is over your bare arm. Don’t take blood pressure over clothing.
- Be sure you’ve used the restroom already.
- Do not smoke or have drinks with caffeine (wait at least 30 minutes if you did)
- Do not exercise right before (wait at least 30 minutes if you did)
- Pick a schedule of taking blood pressure and stick to it.
- Do not move when the machine is measuring your blood pressure.
- Do not talk or surf the internet on your phone (Come on now, that Facebook notification can wait!)
Blood pressure monitor above is the Omron Bronze Blood Pressure Monitor, image from www.amazon.com