How to get an accurate blood pressure reading

Pharmacist George
By Pharmacist George Latest Reply 2012-12-18 23:26:16 -0600
Started 2012-12-18 23:26:16 -0600

If you have high blood pressure and take medications then I suggest you monitor your blood pressure daily if possible, or at least 4-5 times a week. The best time to take your blood pressure is first thing in the morning before you have coffee, tea, or any caffeinated beverage or tobacco products or 45 minutes after consuming such products; otherwise you can get a false reading. If you are a smoker, I urge you to quit as soon as possible.

Take the blood pressure reading in your left arm since it is closer to your heart and the reading is slightly more accurate, unless for various reasons you are not able to do so. If, for some reason, you cannot take the blood pressure reading using the left arm, then right arm reading is okay.

Home blood pressure monitoring technique

Before taking your reading, you should have been sitting and relaxing for about 5 minutes. Your arm should be at heart level, resting on a pillow or a table. Your body and posture must be upright and relaxed, and your legs should be straight and not crossed while sitting. Breathe normally, relax, and do not talk until the procedure is completed. If any of these criteria have been breached, then you must start again.

Slide the cuff on your arm so that it reaches slightly above your elbow, and position it in the way it’s recommended by your monitor. Generally, most cuffs have a sign indicating the proper positioning of that cuff. Read your instruction manual carefully before using your blood pressure monitor. Then press the start button and stay put for the ride.

The cuff will self-inflate then deflate slowly; toward the end of complete deflation, you will get some numbers displayed on your screen. You will get a higher reading, which is your systolic blood pressure reading (the pressure when your heart is in action), and then you will get a lower reading, which is your diastolic blood pressure reading (the pressure when your heart is in a very brief rest period), and a pulse reading.

Although most monitors have memories, I still suggest you record the results in your blood pressure notebook; your entries should each include the date and time. It is a good idea to keep that log, because it comes in handy when you go to the doctor’s office and want to show them your readings. (You’re able to track any steady rise above 130/80 when you have several readings in your pocket notebook.)

Blood pressure monitoring in the pharmacy

Most pharmacies now have free blood pressure–monitoring machines where you can sit and take your reading. Some machines are more sophisticated than others, as they can also measure your weight and BMI (body mass index).

Here are some tips to help you get more accurate readings and avoid false high readings, as I have been witnessing in pharmacies throughout my practice. I see people rush to the blood pressure machine as they just finished a cup of coffee or put down their cigarette—and this, possibly combined with over-the-counter sinus medications, which can transiently raise their blood pressure and provide a false reading.

Ideally, you need to sit at the machine for about 4 or 5 minutes before pushing the start button. Relax, breathe normally, and keep your legs straight, and do not talk while the reading is in progress. Then slide your arm in the cuff until it’s slightly above the elbow, and then press the start button.

When the measurement is in progress, keep breathing normally and don’t converse with anybody, even if we call you into the pharmacy to tell you that your prescription is ready.

Regarding clothing, if you’re wearing a very thin shirt, it may be okay to take the reading with the shirtsleeve in place. However, anything thicker, such as a sweater, will provide a false reading. Slide your shirt up and make sure it doesn’t squeeze your arm too much when it’s up, because then again, it can give you a false reading.

How many times should you repeat the test a one visit? I have seen people test every 3 minutes in order to get a lower reading. It doesn’t work that way. The maximum you can try is twice, and within 5 or 10 minutes of each other. If you do it more, then the blood will be engorged in your arm, and it’s going to give you a false reading, again.

What Is a Normal Resting Pulse?

An average resting pulse is about 70 beats per minute. A higher resting pulse rate in the absence of any heart condition is an indication that you may be leading a sedentary lifestyle and that your heart is not “fit.” Your heart, which is a very complex muscle, has to do more work. When you become more fit, your resting pulse will start dropping slowly to about 70 or fewer beats per minute.

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