How to Properly Place a BP Cuff and Get an Accurate Reading
What You Must Know Before Starting Any Medications
Before you start taking any medications for hypertension, or high blood pressure, make sure that whoever is measuring your blood pressure does it accurately.
Let's start with your doctor's office visit.
Everyone gets nervous, anxious, tense, and apprehensive when they visit their doctor for any exam, procedure, or routine checkup. These emotions will automatically make your resting blood pressure higher than it normally is. It is important to remain calm while also being aware of what's going on around you.
The following are things you should keep an eye on while your blood pressure is being measured.
Watch the Person Taking Your Blood Pressure Closely
The technique is extremely important and can give a false reading if not done correctly.
- A blood pressure cuff should never be placed over clothing.
- It should always be placed directly on the skin to give an accurate reading.
- Know where the stethoscope is supposed to be placed on your arm.
- This only applies if your pressure is taken the old-fashioned way—with a sphygmomanometer.
- Feel around the crease of your arm until you can feel a heartbeat.
- Mark the spot with a pen if you think you will forget by the time you get to the doctor's office.
- This is where the nurse or doctor should place the stethoscope.
- If they are not on the spot, kindly inform them of the spot.
- The spot is not in the exact same place for everyone.
- It's generally best to measure on your left arm unless otherwise contra-indicated.
- This is because you'll be closer to your heart.
- Observe how the cuff is placed around your arm.
- The bottom edge of the cuff should be just above the bend of the arm.
- More importantly, the cuff should be gently, but firmly, wrapped around the arm. There should be enough room to slide a finger between the cuff and your arm.
- If it's too loose, you'll get a false high reading. If it's too tight, you'll get a false low reading.
- Always keep in mind that the person taking your blood pressure can be the deciding factor as to whether the doctor will prescribe blood pressure medications or not.
After Your Measurement, Wait One Week Before Proceeding
Remember that it is ultimately your decision whether or not to take medication. Unless you have obvious symptoms of high blood pressure (e.g. pressure in your head, blurred vision, severe headaches, dizziness, ringing in your ears, etc.), you should let your doctor know that you want to wait a week before deciding. This is so that you can confirm that the reading is representative of your actual blood pressure and not altered due to being nervous or anxious.
If you don't own the necessary equipment to take your own measurements, you can borrow them from a friend or buy them from a local pharmacy. Some pharmacies also have machines available for public use.
Take your blood pressure at least once a day, at the same time each day, and on the same arm. It may not be practical, but ideally, you would measure twice a day—once in the morning and once in the afternoon. This will give you a better sense of what your average or typical blood pressure from day to day.
What Is the Normal Blood Pressure Range
The normal range is defined as readings between 120/80-140/90, although "normal" can vary from person to person. Check with other members of your family and with your doctor to determine what "normal" is for you. If you're in this range, you do not have hypertension, but you should consider lowering it through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes.
Weight management is an important component of healthy blood pressure—losing excess weight can significantly lower your blood pressure. Losing weight is also preferred over taking medications.
What to Do if You Need Blood Pressure Medication
If it is determined that you, in fact, do need blood pressure medication
- Always ask how the medication works to lower blood pressure.
- Know the side effects of your prescription(s).
Keep your Doctor Informed
Always inform your doctor about all medications you are taking.
Although medicine can be life-saving at times and can help you live a longer and healthier life, they can also harm you if used improperly. They can interact with other medications—including any over-the-counter medications. The interactions can alter the intended effects, making them stronger or weaker, or negate them altogether.
Ask your doctor and/or pharmacist about any interactions that might take place.
Know Who You Can Trust
Most drug manufacturers are in the business of making money.
They are not too concerned about the side effects or whether you really need these drugs at all.
99% of all medications are now being made outside this country, and the FDA cannot and does not inspect every batch of medication imported into the United States—in spite of its claims to closely monitor imported goods.
So, my friends, be careful. Take responsibility for your own healthcare and wellbeing by being an informed consumer, and enjoy your life.
Live each day as if it is your last one.
Have a sense of humor—humor can be found in any situation. Laughter is the best medicine for stress and anxiety. Stress is lessened when you do not keep things bottled up inside yourself. Remember to always speak your mind: those that matter don't mind, and those that do mind—don't matter.
© 2010 d.william