Measuring Blood Pressure

Measuring blood pressure involves more than just wrapping a cuff around an arm and squeezing an inflation bulb. To ensure your readings are accurate and consistent—and that you subsequently get proper treatment—your health care provider should be following guidelines from the American Heart Association (AHA).

But a new study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine reveals many clinicians do not. The AHA recommends the following techniques be used to obtain the most accurate readings:

  • Your arm should be supported (not held up in the air) and positioned at heart level, not below or above.
  • You should be comfortably seated on a chair with back support and your feet flat on the ground.
  • Your legs should not be crossed.
  • You should sit quietly for five minutes before the clinician tests you.
  • Your upper arm should be bare.
  • Neither you nor the clinician should speak while the measurement is being taken.
  • The appropriate cuff size should be used. The cuff should encircle at least 80 percent of your arm's circumference.
  • The clinician should measure pressure in both arms if this is your first visit.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), blood pressure kiosks found in many public places—pharmacies, grocery stores, retail stores, gyms, etc.—might not be accurate for everyone who uses them. Most of these stands have just one fixed cuff size and blood pressure reading accuracy depends in part on using the correct size cuff. Talk to your health care provider about whether blood pressure kiosks are right for you and about how to use them properly.

Source: Prepared by the Editors of The Johns Hopkins Medical Letter: Health After 50; Updated by Remedy Health Media

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at

Published: 15 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 26 Jun 2014