Are Blood Pressure Readings From Self-Service Pay Machines Accurate?

by Dr. David Williams
Filed Under: Blood Pressure, Q&As, Heart Health
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

After a hectic day of shopping, I checked my blood pressure on one of the pay machines in the mall. According to the accompanying chart, my blood pressure was a little high. It frightened me, and I immediately went to our family doctor to have it checked. He told me my blood pressure reading was higher than it should be and wanted me to start medication to help control it. Can blood pressure problems start that fast?

 

First of all, you shouldn't rely on self-service pay machines for accurate blood pressure readings. They aren't sophisticated enough to take into account all of the variations that arise when taking blood pressure. Not only does the placement of the cuff on a patient's arm influence the reading, but also the size of the arm can change the reading.

Also, you can't evaluate someone's blood pressure based on one reading. Our blood pressure naturally rises when we are nervous or upset, so it is best to take it while you are totally relaxed. I have many patients whose pressure will rise just because they know it is being taken, or because a certain person is taking it.

If your blood pressure was a little abnormal, have it taken at several different times throughout the day by your doctor or his nurse before determining any course of action.

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