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A blood pressure reading is a critical indicator of risk for stroke, heart disease and dementia.

But what is the effect of using a standard size blood pressure (BP) cuff regardless of an individual’s mid-upper arm circumference on BP readings when using an automated device?

According to a recent study, using the wrong cuff size when taking blood pressure can lead to inaccurate readings. If a cuff is too small, the reading could be higher than it actually is. If the cuff is too big, the reading could miss high blood pressure.

The study found that using a regular BP cuff size for all individuals regardless of arm size resulted in strikingly inaccurate BP readings with an automated device. This means a renewed emphasis on individualized BP cuff selection is warranted, particularly in individuals with larger arm sizes.

Associate Professor, Tammy Brady of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore was the lead researcher. She recently told the ABC’s Health Report “I advocate for measuring the mid-arm circumference with the measuring tape, it takes 10 seconds tops, and then looking at the markings on the cuff that comes with the device to make sure you are choosing the correct cuff.”

So, size does really matter when it comes to blood pressure readings.


More information

Effects of Cuff Size on the Accuracy of Blood Pressure Readings: JAMA Network

Blood pressure: what is your target?

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