Avoiding Blood Pressure Measure Errors

Senior healthcare, in short-term rehab, require patients to have their blood pressure (BP) and pulse rate monitored regularly. Patients who have cardiovascular disease (CVD) or with a primary cardiac diagnosis are likely to be monitored more closely.

Some clinicians, especially the physiatrist and the occupational and/or physical therapists will be interested in the blood pressure record. Blood pressure and heart rate are the vital signs that tell healthcare professionals how the heart is doing.


Accuracy in Senior Healthcare – Blood Pressure Testing

It’s really important that patients know how to have their blood pressure taken correctly.

Family members and friends who accompany out-patients on a check up should also know this.

In fact, this is so important that the American Heart Association declared the month of May “National High Blood Pressure Education Month.”


Factors Causing Blood Pressure Inaccuracies

Here are some factors that can make cause errors in measuring blood pressure. The blood pressure might appear higher than it really is if a patient has any of the following factors:


  1. A full bladder
  2. The back is unsupported
  3. Feet are unsupported
  4. Their legs are crossed
  5. When the cuff is placed over clothing
  6. The arm is unsupported or not positioned correctly
  7. Patient is talking or is taking part in a conversation


It is the nurse’s job to ensure that the right sized cuff is being used. A patient who is checking the blood pressure at home should be told how to use the right-sized cuff.

If the cuff is too large, the results will be falsely low. If the cuff is too small, the result will be falsely high.


Correct Posture for Blood Pressure Test

Medical Sources point out that in order to get an accurate BP the patient should be positioned as follows:

Seated (or lying down), the arm will be horizontal to the ground, the place where the BP cuff is should be parallel to the heart, the legs uncrossed, and the back supported.


Blood Pressure Affected by your Environment

There are other things that may affect blood pressure generally. Mention these to the person taking your blood pressure if it applies to you:

  • Medications and supplements
  • Exercise (including getting to the doctor’s office or rehab center)
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Nervous when a doctor takes the blood pressure. In that case a nurse might repeat the BP test a little later on.
  • Tension. Breathing deeply or using a device such as Resperate  can lower BP.


What You Don’t Know Can Hurt

Michael Hochman, MD MPH is quoted as saying that people who take their blood pressure at home and people who are in a medical office must know when to recognize mistakes. This will help people manage their blood pressure and also help avoid unnecessary changes in dose and medication.

Senior healthcare is improved and supported by senior patients and their family and friends having knowledge. Sometimes knowledge is not just power, it is what you use to gain better health.


Senior healthcare information. Avoid blood pressure measurement inaccuracy.

White coat hypertension? This is an informal medical term. It means getting a higher blood pressure reading due to medical anxiety.

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