Health Advice



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!



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

(c)2022 Michael Roizen, M.D.

Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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


blog comments powered by Disqus


Steve Breen Bart van Leeuwen Drew Sheneman Bizarro Barney Google And Snuffy Smith Bill Bramhall