Machines have made it easy to measure your blood pressure at home. However, most people do not really know how to do it. Added to this, is the confusion about which arm and what other variables impact the measurement.
Here are seven important things to keep in mind.
1. Right arm, left arm, doesn’t really matter: There is a 10-20 mm difference between the BP on the right and left arm. The right arm will usually give you a higher measurement. The problem is, that if the difference between the measurements of both arms is higher than that, you must alert the doctor.
2. Don’t cross your legs: This affects the blood supply and will not give you an accurate measurement.
3. Select the right cuff size: Everyone’s arm size is different, so its important to get the right cuff size, in order to get an accurate measurement.
4. Sit comfortably on a stool: The best way to measure your blood pressure is when you’re seated.
5. Avoid caffeine about 30 minutes before your BP measurement: It contributes to an increased blood pressure and heart rate.
6. Be more careful when you measure BP of aging patients: Never measure the BP in the standing up position; especially an aging patient. In such a case, they are likely to exhibit postural hypotension. This is because the blood gets pooled on the lower part of the body from poor autonomic control in elderly , leading to low blood pressure and major variations in BP reading between lying down and standing.
7. Measuring BP via the leg: There are some situations where the doctor may advise that the BP be measured via the leg- in such cases, place the cuff one inch above the bend of the knee. The patient must be in a prone state while measuring the same.
By and large, the blood pressure reading is usually taken while a person is seated on a chair with the feet flat on the floor. The arm should be resting comfortably at heart level. The top number (systolic) is the pressure of the blood flow when the heart muscle squeezes (contracts), pumping blood. The bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure measured between heartbeats.
If you get irregular numbers (very far from 120/80) for over three weeks, consult your doctor immediately.
The author is world’s leading heart surgeon and chairman of Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai. He has been conferred the Padma Bhushan in January 2010, the third highest civilian award in India. Views expressed are personal.
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