When it comes to your health, it is important to monitor your blood pressure regularly, whether you do it yourself at home, or have your doctor do it (or go to a pharmacy where there is a blood pressure machine).
When you test your blood pressure, you know if it is too high or too low, and then you can take steps to correct it, or even find out if there is a health issue that is causing the blood pressure problem.
Whether you are testing your blood pressure yourself, or having a doctor do it, there are optimal positions to be in so you get the most accurate readings. Read on to learn more about this.
Measuring Blood Pressure
Blood pressure measurements are done with two numbers, and seen in the form of a ratio or fraction. The top number is the systolic pressure (also the higher number), and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure. Ideally, your blood pressure reading should be 120/80.
The systolic number on top represents the amount of force from the blood on the artery walls as the heart is beating. The diastolic number on the bottom represents the force from the blood on the artery walls when the heart is resting, or between beats.
There are three positions that are commonly used when taking blood pressure readings. In most cases, you will be in a seated position. Readings can also be done while you are lying down, and while you are standing up.
Keep in mind that the various positions can play a role in the readings, and if you take three readings in these three positions, you may get three different readings. Now, let’s take a look at the three most common body positions for blood pressure readings.
The most common position used for taking blood pressure readings is being seated in a chair. According to the American Heart Association, your back should be straight and well supported, and your feet should be flat on the floor. Your arm should be resting on a table beside you, at heart level.
If you are not sitting in this position for your blood pressure monitoring, you may end up with readings that are not accurate. In fact, if your back isn’t supported, it can increase the diastolic pressure by up to six points. If your legs are crossed, the systolic pressure can increase anywhere from two and eight points.
Supine position (lying down)
If you are in the hospital for any reason, it may be that your blood pressure will be checked while you are lying down on a bed. It is important for medical professionals (and you if you are checking your own blood pressure) to remember that a reading done while in this position will have a diastolic number about five points lower than what it actually is.
The systolic pressure could show as being as much as eight points higher than what it really is. As long as you know to expect this it shouldn’t affect the accuracy of your readings.
There are occasions when it is best to check blood pressure while in the standing position. For instance, if you are over the age of 70 and taking blood pressure medications, or if you have orthostatic or postural hypotension, this position is optimal for blood pressure readings.
Or, it may be that your doctor wants to assess if there is a need for a change in blood pressure medications, and this is the best position for checking blood pressure for that reason. Just remember that readings done while standing tend to be lower than if you were in a seated or supine position.
No matter what position you are in while having your blood pressure checked, it is important that your arm be in the proper position. It should be at heart level, and supported so it is relaxed and not tense.
If the arm is above heart level, it can cause your reading to be lower than it actually is, and if the arm is below heart level, your reading could be higher. If you are lying down, use a pillow to support your arm, and make sure your arm is relaxed and not tensed up.
It is important to have your blood pressure monitored regularly, and the position you are in is going to play a role in the outcome of your reading. If you are using an at-home blood pressure monitor, it is best that you take your readings while in a seated position, just as you would if you were at your doctor’s office.