Make your blood pressure readings accurate

An inaccurate blood pressure reading can leave patients either untreated for true hypertension or starting on an unnecessary medication regimen. This year, help your staff ensure they're taking blood pressure correctly by following these step for reproducible blood pressure results:

  1. Make sure the patient is relaxed before taking his or her pressure. It's normal for blood pressure to rise with activity, and even the simple act of moving from waiting room to exam room - preceded, perhaps, by a rush to get from work to the appointment on time - can influence the outcome. Let the patient settle in, then take the reading. If the reading is high, wait five minutes and take it again.
  2. Make sure the patient has both feet flat on the floor. This means avoiding taking blood pressure on an exam table, from which a patient's legs will dangle. Dangling one's legs requires muscular activity, which can increase blood pressure. Ask the patient to relax, as much as possible, and make sure he or she isn't talking when you take the reading.
  3. The patient's arm should be supported at heart level. While it makes no difference where the sphygmomanometer is, the position of the artery and stethoscope are important. Rather than have the patient rest his or her arm on a counter or chair, hold the patient's arm at heart level to get the most accurate reading. The patient should not hold up his or her own arm.
  4. Don't release the pressure too quickly, as you may miss the first tone and get a false low reading for either the systolic or diastolic reading.
  5. Suggest home monitoring if there is a diagnosis of hypertension.