To get a more accurate, well-rounded view of your blood pressure, your doctor will probably recommend that you buy a home blood pressure monitor and take readings throughout the day. The single most common mistake you can avoid is choosing a blood pressure cuff that is too small for your arm.
Normal Blood Pressure
The University of Michigan Health System indicates a blood pressure below 140/90 is normal. For patients suffering from various medical maladies resulting or related to diabetes or heart disease, an optimal reading should be below 135/80. Blood pressure naturally varies throughout the day, lowering at night and increasing when you are active or upset.
According to a compilation done by the National Guideline Clearinghouse, the increasing prevalence of obesity, particularly in the United States, has increased the need for large adult blood pressure cuffs, which have until recently rarely been used in a clinical setting. It was found that 61 percent of subjects studied needed a large blood pressure cuff and that using cuffs that were too small was the largest source of outpatient blood pressure measurement errors.
Effects of a Small Cuff
Dr. Sheldon Shelps of the Mayo Clinic says that using a blood pressure cuff that is too small for the arm in question can lead to readings that are falsely high. Falsely high readings, though uncommon in a medical setting, can lead to false diagnoses and overmedication.
A proper blood pressure cuff should contain an air bladder whose length is 80 percent of the circumference of your arm, and whose width is 40 percent of that circumference. If your arm has a circumference of 22 to 26 centimeters, the proper blood pressure cuff should measure 12 cm by 22 cm, which is known as the "small adult" size. In comparison, a larger person whose arm has a circumference of 35 to 44 cm would need a blood pressure cuff measuring 16 cm by 36 cm, known as the "large adult" size.
Importance of a Proper Reading
Proper treatment of high blood pressure is dependent on being able to get accurate measurements of your blood pressure at any given time. Since a more accurate representation of your blood pressure can be gained through multiple home measurements rather than a single clinical one, accurate measurement at home is necessary.
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