Your Blood Pressure Readings May Be Too High

But they might not be as bad as they seem. Blood pressure readings can be thrown off by many simple little things. Learn how you can prevent this from happening to you.

Blood Pressure Readings:

What they are: Two numbers designate blood pressure. The first one represents the maximum pressure reached when the heart beats. The second one represents the minimum pressure reached when the heart rests between beats. The first pressure is called the systolic and the second is called the diastolic

What they mean: These two numbers are used together and written as for example 120 over 80. The first, the systolic, is the pressure to which it spikes when the heart beats. The second, the diastolic, is the pressure to which it falls during the interval between beats.

How to measure: A device called a sphygmomanometer allows an operator to hear the sounds made by a compressed artery as the compression pressure is allowed to fall from above the systolic to below the diastolic. The beginning of sound is the systolic and the end of sound is the diastolic. See my page on How to Take Blood Pressure

What the numbers should be:

Blood Pressure Classification
Systolic Diastolic Class
115 75 Desirable
120-139 80-89 Prehypertension
140-159 90-99 Hypertension Stage 1
160 or over 100 or over Hypertension Stage 2

What affects them: As stated previously many different factors can adversely affect the blood pressure readings, that is to cause them to read too high. Here is a list:

  1. Not sitting quietly.
  2. Not sitting quietly for 3 minutes.
  3. Waiting too long before taking it.
  4. Feet not flat on floor (dangling or legs crossed).
  5. Back not supported.
  6. Use of nicotine, alcohol, or caffeine within 30 minutes prior.
  7. Rolled up sleeve (compresses arm).
  8. Clothing still on arm.
  9. Bladder full (urinary that is).
  10. Incorrect size cuff (usually too small).
  11. Cuff not positioned properly (edges must be aligned, 1 inch above bend of elbow).
  12. Incorrect arm (the right upper arm is the correct place to take BP). Not the forearm, nor the wrist, nor the finger.
  13. Arm not relaxed.
  14. Arm not supported.
  15. Arm not at heart level. Allowed to be straight down.
  16. Talking (either operator or patient).

Doctor’s Practical Guide:

Be sure and read these two pages: How to Take Blood Pressure and Blood Pressure Cuff
Know how blood pressure readings should be taken. Know what factors can throw it off. Know your arm size and the size range for any cuff used on you and make sure it is appropriate.
Do learn how to take blood pressure readings yourself and on yourself. After all, it’s your life. Who else has the primary responsibility for it? It’s also easy and kind of fun.


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