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Wrong-size blood pressure cuffs can cause distorted readings

By Michael Roizen, M.D. on

The Roman poet Virgil mentions handcuffs as a device that was used by mortals to try to prevent the god Proteus from shape-shifting his way out of sticky situations. If your shape is shifting toward larger-size biceps (from muscle or from excess weight), you turn out to be difficult to cuff, too.

According to a study presented at a recent American Heart Association conference, using a one-size-fits-all cuff when taking blood pressure readings can cause significant inaccuracies -- especially for folks who should be using a large or extra-large cuff. The researchers found that when a "regular" cuff was put on a large arm, the systolic (top number) blood pressure reading was inaccurately raised by an average of 4.8 mmHg, and when that "regular" cuff was put on an extra-large arm, the inaccurate reading soared by almost 20 mmHg. That meant on average, individuals who required an extra-large cuff had a blood pressure reading of 143.9/86.5 mmHg when a regular adult cuff was used, but an appropriately sized cuff resulted in a reading of 124.2/79.1 mmHg, which is within the normal range.

That's a serious misdiagnosis, and one that you as a patient are going to have to take charge of the next time you get a checkup. If the cuff feels weirdly too tight when inflated or if your blood pressure registers higher than normal, ask the doctor/nurse to measure your arm circumference and choose an appropriate size cuff. Then compare the two readings. Your doc may be surprised, and you may be relieved!

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Health pioneer Michael Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer emeritus at the Cleveland Clinic and author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers. His next book is "The Great Age Reboot: Cracking the Longevity Code for a Younger Tomorrow." Do you have a topic Dr. Mike should cover in a future column? If so, please email questions@GreatAgeReboot.com.

(c)2022 Michael Roizen, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

(c) 2022 Michael Roizen, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.
 

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