Skip to Main Content

Blood pressure should be measured with a well-calibrated sphygmomanometer. The bladder width within the cuff should encircle at least 80% of the arm circumference. Readings should be taken after the patient has been resting comfortably, back supported in the sitting or supine position, for at least 5 minutes and at least 30 minutes after smoking or coffee ingestion. A video demonstrating the correct technique can be found at Blood pressure readings made in the office with devices that permit multiple automated measurements after a pre-programmed rest period produce data that are independent of digit preference bias (tendency to favor numbers that end with zero or five) and avoid the “white coat” phenomenon (where blood pressure is elevated in the clinic but normal at home). Blood pressure measurements taken outside the office environment, either by intermittent self-monitoring (home blood pressure) or with an automated device programmed to take measurements at regular intervals (ambulatory blood pressure), are more powerful predictors of outcomes and are advocated in clinical guidelines.

A single elevated blood pressure reading is not sufficient to establish the diagnosis of hypertension. The major exceptions to this rule are hypertension presenting with unequivocal evidence of life-threatening end-organ damage, as seen in hypertensive emergency, or hypertensive urgency where blood pressure is greater than 220/125 mm Hg but life-threatening end-organ damage is absent. In less severe cases, the diagnosis of hypertension depends on a series of measurements of blood pressure since readings can vary and tend to regress toward the mean with time. Patients whose initial blood pressure is in the hypertensive range exhibit the greatest fall toward the normal range between the first and second encounters. However, the concern for diagnostic precision needs to be balanced by an appreciation of the importance of establishing the diagnosis of hypertension as quickly as possible since a 3-month delay in treatment of hypertension in high-risk patients is associated with a twofold increase in cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. The 2017 guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association (ACC/AHA) (based on conventional office-based measurements) define normal blood pressure as less than 120/80 mm Hg, elevated blood pressure as 120–129/less than 80 mm Hg, stage 1 hypertension as 130–139/80–89 mm Hg, and stage 2 hypertension as greater than or equal to 140/90 mm Hg. As exemplified by Hypertension Canada’s 2017 guidelines (Figure 11–1), automated and home blood pressure measurements have assumed greater prominence in the diagnostic algorithms published by many national hypertension workgroups. Equivalent blood pressures for these different modes of measurement are described in Table 11–1.

Figure 11–1.

According to these recommendations, if AOBP measurements are not available, blood pressures recorded manually in the office may be substituted if taken as the mean of the last two readings of three consecutive readings. Note that the blood pressure threshold for diagnosing hypertension is higher if recorded manually in these guidelines. If home blood pressure monitoring is unavailable, office measurements recorded over ...

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.