Does Cuff Size Matter When Checking Your Blood Pressure?

Eli Ben-Yehuda

Written by Eli Ben-Yehuda

On November 10, 2019

This week’s question is from Scott H. In my training as a registered nurse, we were always instructed to ensure that we used the right cuff size for the patient. For example, you would not use a medium size cuff on a gentleman who needed a large cuff. Nor would you use a large cuff on a petite woman. In both cases, the reading would be inaccurate.

You must use the correct cuff size for your body type. If you are going to purchase a device for home use, you want to ensure that the cuff can be used for multiple sizes. This way you know you will get an accurate reading.

How to take your blood pressure using a home blood pressure monitor
  • Put the cuff on following the instructions that came with your monitor.
  • Make sure you are relaxed and comfortable. If you are anxious or uncomfortable, this will make your blood pressure rise temporarily.
  • When you are taking your reading, keep still and silent. Moving and talking can affect your reading.
  • Take two or three readings, each about two minutes apart, and then work out the average. Some people find that their first reading is much higher than the next readings. If this is true for you, keep taking readings until they level out and stop falling, then use this as your reading.
  • Record your reading, either in the memory of your monitor or on computer or paper.
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Tips on taking blood pressure readings
  • Do not round your measurements up or down – if you don’t keep accurate records of your blood pressure it may affect the treatment you receive.
  • Do not be alarmed if you get an unexpected high reading – a one-off reading may be nothing to worry about. Measure your blood pressure again at another time, but if you find that it continues to be high after a period of time, see your doctor or nurse.
  • Do not check your blood pressure too often –  you may become worried or stressed about small changes in your reading. This can raise your blood pressure in the short-term. Worrying about your blood-pressure reading may actually make it higher.

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2 Replies to “Does Cuff Size Matter When Checking Your Blood Pressure?”

  1. Eli,

    I finally bought a wrist blood pressure cuff because I never felt confident about the results I got on the arm cuff, even though I followed the directions as precisely as possible. The wrist cuff readings were immediately lower. So, I’ve made a practice of doing both on occasion (not every day) just to make sure the readings are consistent. The arm cuff is usually a little higher, but never over ten points. I figure it’s mostly my “white coat” anxiety, because arm cuffs always make me anxious. The wrist cuff doesn’t. What do you think of wrist cuffs, in general?

    Best,
    Rose

    1. Dear Rose, From what I have read and from a nursing perspective I have found the wrist monitors
      not as accurate as the arm cuff. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Some wrist blood pressure monitors may be accurate if used exactly as directed. However, the American Heart Association recommends using a home blood pressure monitor that measures blood pressure in your upper arm and not using wrist or finger blood pressure monitors. Wrist blood pressure monitors are extremely sensitive to body position. To get an accurate reading when taking your blood pressure with a wrist monitor, your arm and wrist must be at heart level. Even then, blood pressure measurements taken at the wrist are usually higher and less accurate than those taken at your upper arm. That’s because the wrist arteries are narrower and not as deep under your skin as those of the upper arm.”

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