Have you lost weight, have a bunch of loose hanging skin and are wondering if this could throw off your blood pressure reading?
It’s very important to get accurate readings of your blood pressure. This can even be accomplished with a reliable home blood pressure device.
Patients are told to sit in a relaxed position, no crossing of the legs, and that the arm where the cuff will go needs to be elevated but resting against something. Ideally, the arm should be free of clothing.
You may already know that very large arms, either due to muscle or excess fat, need a larger cuff – one that fits properly.
Loose skin from weight loss, on the other hand, doesn’t have the bulky density that excess fat or ample muscle mass does. So if you have a lot of loose, “hanging” skin, how might this affect your blood pressure reading?
Taking Blood Pressure when an Arm Has Loose Skin
“I’ve seen several people who have lost lots of weight, and the loose hanging skin does make it technically more awkward to get a blood pressure reading,” says Dr. David Beatty, MD, a retired general practitioner with 30+ years of experience and an instructor of general medicine for 20 years.
“Ideally the blood pressure cuff should be placed snugly around the upper arm.
“This is harder to do with a thin arm surrounded by loose hanging skin and floppy subcutaneous tissue.
“When the cuff is inflated it can sometimes be more uncomfortable for the patient if folds of skin get caught underneath each other.
“In the vast majority of cases a reasonable reading can be achieved using a manual blood pressure machine (sphygmomanometer or sphyg).
“The automated sphygs, which are now used with increasing frequency, don’t like this type of arm at all.
“They frequently return an Error reading. This means the cuff has to be reset and the reading repeated — often multiple times.
“The whole process can become increasingly uncomfortable for the patient.
“The automated machines tend to inflate to a pressure of 160 mmHg and then slowly drop down until a reading is achieved.
“If it doesn’t get a reading the first time it will re-inflate to a pressure of 200 mmHg and then drop down again.
“The arm is often being squeezed for longer because the automated machine will usually drop the pressure more slowly than a human operator would.”
What is the solution?
First of all, you should never feel disdain over your loose skin. This means the excess fat that used to fill it up is no longer there.
That’s what you worked so hard towards, and your cardiovascular and joint health are all the better for it.
Next, buy a manual or home blood pressure device. There are so many different makes and models on the market. Find one that has excellent reviews.
Don’t go for the first cheap one you find. Read the reviews. Research the product.
Follow the instructions and record your blood pressure over a period of time. Compare the readings to what you’ve gotten in your doctor’s office.
Dr. Beatty has worked in primary medicine, surgery, accident and emergency, OBGYN, pediatrics and chronic disease management. He is the Doctor of Medicine for Strong Home Gym.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.