Do you find that your blood pressure varies a lot when you measure it? Perhaps you’re worried about “spikes” in your blood pressure? This could be because you’re not getting accurate readings.
In this blog post we’ll tell you how to get accurate readings every time. You could find that your blood pressure is actually lower than you think, so you may need less mediation meaning less risk of side effects.
Before you even start to check your blood pressure please make sure that you do not need to use the toilet. If you do, then go before you take it. If you need to use the toilet it will increase your blood pressure. This will give you an incorrect high reading.
If you’ve just had a cup of coffee then you need to wait for 30 minutes. This is because coffee can send your blood pressure up. If you’ve just smoked a cigarette then you also need to wait for 30 minutes.
You want to avoid getting abnormally high readings. if you don’t, it may seem as you need treatment when you don’t. Over treating high blood pressure also puts you at increased risk of getting side effects
Once you’re ready to start, you need to set up the environment around you. You’ll need a chair that’s comfortable to sit in. You’ll need to be wearing loose clothing. You should be able to easily roll up your sleeve to get to your upper arm. If the sleeve forms a tight band around the arm, you need to change into something else. Next to the chair you’ll need a desk or table on which to rest your blood pressure machine. This needs to be at roughly the same height as your heart. Your heart is roughly at the same height as your nipples. A few centimetres won’t make much difference, but more than that and you’ll get an inaccurate reading.
Now it’s time to take a reading.
Taking a reading
Sit in the chair, with your feet flat on the ground. This is important because if your feet are up, it’ll put your blood pressure up.
Put the blood pressure cuff around your arm. Make sure that the size of the cuff is correct for your arm. If it’s too big or too small for your arm the reading will be incorrect. Many cuffs have marks on them to show you what the recommended range of sizes is. Others have numbers to show you what arm measurement they fit. If you are in doubt then measure your arm around the middle of your bicep with a tape measure.
Now comes the really important bit. Once you’ve attached the cuff, wait and relax for at least five minutes. To relax you could listen to a relaxation tape. You could also practice some mindfulness and concentrate on your breathing. On youtube there are some relaxation soundtracks to listen to.
Take the first reading
Once you’re relaxed, activate your machine and let it take the reading. We find it best not to watch the monitor whilst it’s doing this. If you’re like us, watching the numbers on the monitor whilst they go up can be stressful. We find it best to close our eyes, concentrate on taking slow deep breaths, and then only look at the monitor once you’ve felt the cuff deflate.
Then wait a minute
Make a note of this reading. Then relax and wait for another minute. Again we find it’s best to concentrate on taking slow deep breaths for this minute. After 1 minute repeat the reading and note it down.
If it hasn’t worked
If the monitor displays an error message, this is quite normal. All it means is that it’s been unable to get an accurate reading. If this happens, make sure that the cuff is in the correct position, and then repeat the process.
Taking a reading takes at least 6 or 7 minutes. If you rush it, you’ll end up with an abnormally high reading. Every step in this process is equally important to prevent that.
This is quite a lot to remember. So much so that even some doctors and nurses struggle to remember every step in the process. Lots of people are used to just sitting down and having their blood pressure measured there and then. This may be why they end up with a diagnosis of high blood pressure.
So, now you can take an accurate blood pressure reading. However, blood pressure naturally varies from minute to minute so when should you measure it to get a true reading? This is the next step – to get an accurate measurement of your blood pressure you need to take readings for a week and then average them. We explain how you can do this in our blog post, “How to use a blood pressure diary to reduce your risk of unnecessary medications and side effects”.
You will then have a really accurate measurement of your blood pressure and you may find you don’t need as much medication.