Blood pressure measurements vary widely at the doctor’s office


About half of US adults have high blood pressure, and only a quarter of them have it under control. Yet most people with high blood pressure don’t monitor it at home; they rely only on measurements taken at health care visits. But that’s not going to give you an accurate picture, suggests a study published online March 8, 2023, by Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes. Researchers evaluated more than 7.7 million blood pressure measurements taken from more than 537,000 adults (average age 53) over more than two years. Each participant averaged 13 doctor visits during that time. Scientists found wide variations in blood pressure measurements from one visit to the next — especially in people with known high blood pressure. While a person’s blood pressure can change substantially from hour to hour, the researchers say that faulty equipment or imprecise techniques used to measure blood pressure in the doctor’s office may also explain the variability. Such wide variations in readings can make it hard to determine if blood pressure drugs are working or if someone should start taking medication. For more accurate measurements, take your blood pressure at home regularly, two or three times per week.

Image: © Lourdes Balduque/Getty Images

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of the last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.