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How to Take a Blood Pressure Reading

How to Take a Blood Pressure Reading

Get accurate results with your at-home monitor and arm cuff.

Follow the steps below to get an accurate blood pressure (BP) reading. For more guidance, watch this video tutorial or check out this infographic from the American Medical Association.

How to Take a BP Reading, Step-by-Step:

Step 1: Plan Ahead
  • Avoid caffeine, smoking, alcohol, exercise, and meals for at least 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.
  • Wait until after you measure to take any blood pressure medication.
  • Empty your bladder before you measure.

Step 2: Get in Position
  • Sit with your back straight and supported. (A dining chair is a better option than a sofa.)
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor, and uncross your legs.
  • Wrap the cuff around your bare arm with the tube extending down toward your hand.
  • Secure the cuff just above your elbow with the artery mark (Ф) centered on the front of your arm. (The cuff should be snug but not too tight — make sure you can slide one finger under it.)
  • Rest your arm, palm up, on a flat surface so that the cuff is at heart level.
Step 3: Take Time to Relax
  • Sit quietly for at least 5 minutes.
  • Avoid conversation or distractions, including looking at your phone.

Step 4: Measure Your BP
  • Take 2-3 readings, at least a minute apart.
  • Do not change your position or remove the BP cuff between readings.

Wondering how often you should check your BP? See this resource for more information.

Why It's Worth Doing Right
To get an accurate reading, follow all of the steps above. Skipping any can skew your results by as much as 40 points mmHg. Having the right size cuff is also critical. If you’re not sure about your cuff sizing, get tips here.

The chart below shows how improper technique can lead to a false BP reading.


Which arm should you use? The first time you take your blood pressure, measure twice on each arm. For each arm, add both measurements and divide by 2 to get an average. If the difference between the averages is greater than 10 mm Hg for either systolic or diastolic, use the arm that measured higher from then on. Important: Tell your doctor about this difference as it may indicate a higher risk of heart disease.