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10 Common Reasons for Inaccurate Blood Pressure Readings

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When you’re taking your blood pressure, it’s important that the readings are accurate.

Inaccurate readings can lead to plenty of complications and problems that you want to avoid. However, there are many factors that can affect the accuracy, whether that’s having a bursting bladder or having your feet swinging mid-air.

young woman lounging over a couch
Sitting Correctly Is Important to Get Accurate Blood Pressure Readings

In this article, we take a look at the most common factors that can affect the readings so that you can steer clear of them!

What Are the Causes of Inaccurate Blood Pressure Readings?

Many wrong blood pressure readings actually stem from the same few reasons.

Let’s explore some of these common causes below:

1. Feeling Stressed and Anxious

It’s not a great idea to take your blood pressure when you’re feeling jittery and like a bundle of nerves.

This is because stress and anxiety can increase your heart rate due to raised cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that your body releases automatically when you’re feeling stressed.

man in hoodie looking stressed
Stress and Anxiety Can Cause False Blood Pressure Readings

Sometimes, if you’re taking your blood pressure at the doctor’s you might have white coat hypertension. This refers to the anxiety you feel when seeing a medical professional, which may also lead to increased blood pressure.

2. Using the Arm Cuff Wrongly

The majority of inaccurate blood pressure monitor readings are caused by wrong-sized arm cuffs or by placing them over your clothing.

Wrong cuff placement can increase your reading and cause inaccuracy. Make sure that it isn’t too loose or too tight and inform your healthcare provider if you feel discomfort.

3. Using an Incorrectly Sized Arm Cuff

Equipment errors in blood pressure readings can also arise from using a wrongly sized cuff.

This means that using a cuff that is too small or too big can result in false blood pressure readings.

4. Poor Support

Are you slouching with your feet dangling above the ground while you’re struggling to hold your arm up?

Poor or no support can increase your blood pressure reading, and an unsupported arm can also raise the reading significantly.

cat sitting on a big armchair
Poor Posture and Support Can Lead to Incorrect Blood Pressure Readings

Ensure that you’re sitting up straight in a comfortable chair with your feet touching the ground and your arm propped up on a table or armrest. The arm cuff has to be level with your heart.

5. Moving or Talking Too Much

Avoid chatting when you’re about to take your blood pressure, or while you’re taking it.

girl shushing with finger to her lips
Avoid Moving or Talking When Taking Your Blood Pressure Measurement

Studies have revealed that talking can increase your blood pressure reading, so it’s important to keep quiet when you’re taking your reading.

6. Activities Before Taking Your Measurement

Your activities before taking your blood pressure reading can affect the accuracy.

pouring hot water into coffee
Steer Away From Caffeine Before Taking Your Blood Pressure Measurement

For example, if you consume caffeine, alcohol, or smoke, your blood pressure will spike instantly. Don’t drink your kopi-o, beer, or puff away on your cigarette at least 30 minutes before you use your blood pressure monitor.

7. Timing and Frequency

Your blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day. The reading you get in the morning will differ from the reading you get in the afternoon and at night.

This is why medical professionals recommend taking your blood pressure multiple times a day to make sure that the reading is accurate.

bed and bedside table
The Time of Day and Frequency of Measurement Have an Impact on Blood Pressure Readings

8. A Full Bladder

A full bladder puts pressure on your kidneys, which in turn, pressurises your blood vessels.

Therefore, it can increase your blood pressure reading by 10 to 15 points. Make sure to clear your bladder before taking your blood pressure to get an accurate reading.

This is especially so when you’re taking your measurement after waking up in the morning and your bladder feels like it’s about to burst,

9. Being Cold

If your air conditioner is turned to 16 degrees and you’re shivering, turn it off and wait till you feel warmer before taking your blood pressure.

Feeling cold causes your blood vessels to contract because of the lower temperature, leading to an increase in your blood pressure.

This is because your blood needs a greater amount of pressure to flow through narrow blood vessels.

10. Does Clothing Affect Blood Pressure Readings?

Most of the time, if you use an Omron blood pressure monitor, it will show the error E5 if it detects that your clothing is interfering with its measurements. Apart from this error code, there are also other common blood pressure monitor error codes that you can find here.

Otherwise, if you use other brands of blood pressure monitors, your clothing may cause a 10 to 50mmHg difference in readings.

Remember to measure over your bare skin to ensure that the reading is accurate.

flatlay of a white shirt
Measure Your Blood Pressure Over Bare Skin

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