Checking blood pressure

May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and the American Heart Association is bringing to light common measurement mistakes.

7 mistakes that can lead to higher readings and misdiagnosis:

  1. Having a full bladder – You should always empty your bladder before measuring blood pressure.
  2. Slouching, unsupported back/feet – Poor support when sitting can increase your reading. Make sure you’re in a chair with your back supported and feet flat on the floor.
  3. Unsupported arm – If your arm is hanging by your side or you have to hold it up during a reading, you may see higher numbers. Position your arm on a chair or counter so the measurement cuff is level with your heart.
  4. Wrapping the cuff over clothing – This common error can add points to your reading. Instead, be sure the cuff is placed on a bare arm.
  5. When the cuff is too small – Ensure a proper fit for an accurate reading.
  6. Sitting with crossed legs – While polite, it could increase a blood pressure reading. It’s best to uncross your legs as well as ensure your feet are supported.
  7. Talking – Answering questions, talking on the phone, etc. can add points. Stay still and silent to ensure an accurate measurement.

“These simple things can make a difference in whether or not a person is classified as having high blood pressure that requires treatment,” said Michael Hochman, M.D., MPH, Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a member of the American Heart Association’s Blood Pressure Task Force. “Knowing how to measure blood pressure accurately at home, and recognizing mistakes in the physician’s office, can help you manage your pressure and avoid unnecessary medication changes¹.”

Target: BP Can Make A Difference

The American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association partnered to launch Target: BP to improve blood pressure control and build a healthier nation. This national initiative aims to reduce the number of Americans who have heart attacks and strokes by urging medical practices, health service organizations and patients to prioritize blood pressure control.

Target: BP supports physicians and care teams by offering access to the latest research, tools, and resources to reach and sustain blood pressure goal rates within the patients populations they serve.

Learn more. Join Target: BP and be a part of this national movement.

High blood pressure is a leading cause of cardiovascular disease in the country Getting an accurate measurement is the first step in ensuring individuals receive the most appropriate care and prevention for heart disease and stroke. If we can make improvement in this one critical step, we could make a huge impact on reducing heart disease and strokes. For more information about high blood pressure, visit

We will be promoting training opportunities and sharing resources and information on these very important topics throughout the month of May. Click here for resources, educational webinar recordings and to learn how you can become a partner to improve cardiac health across our region.


  1. American Heart Association; April 30, 2018