How accurate are the blood pressure machines in grocery stores and drugstores?
Answer From Rekha Mankad, M.D.
Public blood pressure kiosk machines, such as those found in pharmacies, may provide helpful information about your blood pressure. But public blood pressure machines can have limitations too. Their accuracy depends on many things, including correct cuff size and proper use. Ask your health care provider for advice on using public blood pressure machines.
It's important that the blood pressure cuff fits you well. The cuff is the band that goes around the upper arm. The cuffs on some public blood pressure machines may be too small or too large for some people. Using a blood pressure cuff that's too large or too small may give you an inaccurate blood pressure reading. So, you might think your blood pressure is fine when it's not.
Some machines measure blood pressure using a wrist cuff. A wrist blood pressure device may be as accurate as an upper arm monitor, but it needs to be fitted properly and checked with readings taken in a provider's office. A wrist blood pressure monitor must be placed directly over the wrist (radial) artery to get an accurate reading. The wrist must be positioned at heart level. Flexing the wrist can cause incorrect readings.
Another concern is that some public blood pressure machines aren't standardized, which makes it hard to know how accurate they are.
It's best to have your blood pressure checked by a trained health care provider using an accurate instrument. When considering if you have low or high blood pressure, your provider should consider the average of two or more blood pressure readings from three or more office visits.
If you need more frequent blood pressure checks, your health care provider can tell you how to monitor your blood pressure at home. Home blood pressure monitoring can be a convenient way to get regular blood pressure readings. Ask your provider to check your device for a proper fit and accuracy.
Don't stop or change your medications or alter any diet changes you've made without talking to your provider first, even if your home readings seem OK. Grocery store and pharmacy testing and home blood pressure monitoring aren't substitutes for regular health checkups.
April 28, 2022
From Mayo Clinic to your inbox
Sign up for free, and stay up to date on research advancements, health tips and current health topics, like COVID-19, plus expertise on managing health.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which
information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with
other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could
include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected
health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health
information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of
privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on
the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing!
You'll soon start receiving the latest Mayo Clinic health information you requested in your inbox.
Sorry something went wrong with your subscription
Please, try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Shea S, et al. The retail outlet health kiosk hypertension trial (ROKHYT): Pilot results. 2022; doi:10.1093/ajh/hpab129.
- Chung CF, et al. Implementation of a new kiosk technology for blood pressure management in a family medicine clinic: From the WWAMI region practice and research network. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2016; doi:10.3122/jabfm.2016.05.160096.
- Cohen DL, et al. Blood pressure readings using public kiosks or smart phone apps: Caveat emptor (for now). Journal of Clinical Hypertension. 2017; doi:10.1111/jch.13013.
- High blood pressure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/high-blood-pressure. Accessed March 3, 2022.
- Sharman JE, et al. Lancet Commission on Hypertension group position statement on the global improvement of accuracy standards for devices that measure blood pressure. Journal of Hypertension. 2020; doi:10.1097/HJH.0000000000002246.
- Monitoring your blood pressure at home. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings/monitoring-your-blood-pressure-at-home. Accessed March 3, 2022.
- Muntner P, et al. Measurement of blood pressure in humans: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension. 2019; doi:10.1161/HYP.0000000000000087.
- Mankad R (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. March 18, 2022.