Taking Blood Pressure Over A Long Sleeve Shirt

Have you ever decided to measure your blood pressure at home and realize you have a long sleeve shirt on? At that exact moment, the last thing you probably want to do is take your shirt off or change it. You may have heard different point of views on the topic, can you take blood pressure over a long sleeve shirt?

You shouldn’t take blood pressure over a long sleeve shirt because it’s been shown in studies to result in higher blood pressure readings. The American College of Cardiology and The American Heart Association both recommend wrapping a blood pressure cuff around a bare arm.

This blog post will inform you of the reasons why and how much blood pressure readings can increase when measuring it over a long sleeve shirt. In addition, I’ll let you know why you shouldn’t be rolling up that long sleeve.

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Why You Shouldn’t Measure Blood Pressure Over A Shirt

When discussing the topic of blood pressure, there are two highly trusted sources on the topic. One of them, The American College of Cardiology, recommends people at home should wrap the blood pressure cuff over a bare arm and not over clothing.

In addition, they recommend a medical profession should remove any clothing covering the location of the blood pressure cuff placement 1.

The next trusted source, The American Heart Association, suggests to visit the doctor with short sleeves or roll up long sleeves when taking blood pressure. They state systolic pressure may increase by 50 mmHg depending on the thickness of the sleeve 2.

The American Diagnostic Corporation, a well-known manufacturer of medical and blood pressure products, states a cuff should always be placed on a bare arm. They mention studies have shown clothing can raise systolic pressure from 10 to 50 mmHg. 3. So what are some of these studies?

I decided to conduct my own long sleeve experiment at home with two different sleeve thicknesses. I measured my blood pressure over a bare arm and then over a long sleeve shirt with a thin sleeve. I then measured it one more time, increasing the thickness of the shirt. The table below shows my results.

Over Bare Arm 121/77
Over Thin Long Sleeve 136/77
Over Thick Long Sleeve 143/82

The thin, long sleeve shirt increased systolic 15mmHg and diastolic remained the same. Over a thick, long sleeve shirt, systolic increased even more, 22 mmHg and diastolic by 5 mmHg. I made a video which shows the measurements and the sleeves used, you can watch it by clicking on the video directly below.

So that’s my little experiment, but what do the scientific studies say?

Studies On How Long Sleeves Affected Blood Pressure

Study

Research published in the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Region, examined more than 2,300,000 blood pressure measurements. Their research noted how small inaccuracies during BP measurement can result in an inaccurate diagnosis of high blood pressure and unnecessary prescription of medicine.

One of the factors noted for affecting the accuracy of blood pressure measure was the cuff over clothing. They noted it may increase systolic blood pressure 5 to 50 mmHg 4.

Study

In 2014, 186 people participated in a study that researched the comparison of measurements. The cuff was placed on a bare arm, over a sleeve and a rolled up sleeve. The rolled up sleeve increased the thickness of the clothing under the cuff. The results are shown below in the table.

Arm/Sleeve BP
Bare Arm 128.9/67.4
Sleeved Arm 132.8/72.6
Rolled Up Sleeve 133.4/74.4

The BP increased when the cuff was placed over the sleeve and increased slightly more when the sleeve was thicker. The researchers concluded blood pressure should be measured on bare arms as recommended by the guidelines 5.

How Tight Rolled Up Sleeves Affect Blood Pressure

My experiment and the studies above demonstrate measuring blood pressure over a sleeve can make the reading higher. Therefore, if you’re wearing long sleeves, you may be wondering, should I roll up my sleeves?

When measuring blood pressure long sleeves may be rolled up if the sleeve if very loose. If rolling up the sleeve makes it tight around the arm, it creates a tourniquet affect and changes the blood flow. Therefore, a tight sleeve should not be rolled up when measuring blood pressure.

When a tight sleeve is rolled up, it gets even tighter and squeezes your upper arm. This may restrict the blood flow prior to inflating the blood pressure cuff. The restricted blood flow also remains when the cuff is deflating. This is likely to cause inaccurate readings 1.

Next time you have a doctor’s appointment, try to remember to wear short sleeves or a very loose long sleeve shirt. If you forget and wear a long sleeve shirt, you can always remove one sleeve or remove the shirt all together.

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How about wearing tight clothing? Find out in my blog post if it can affect blood pressure by clicking right below.

Read Next

How Tight Clothing Affects Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure Cuff Placement 

Unsupported Arm Blood Pressure

Article Resources: Blood Pressure Explained follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. Hypertension: Measurement of Blood Pressure in Humans: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association[][]
  2. American Heart Association: Are blood pressure measurement mistakes making you chronically ill?[]
  3. American Diagnostic Corporation: Why is My Blood Pressure Reading So High? 10 Factors that Affect BP Readings[]
  4. National Center For Biotechnology Information: The Importance of Accurate Blood Pressure Measurement[]
  5. Oxford Academic: Comparison of blood pressure measurements on the bare arm, over a sleeve and over a rolled-up sleeve in the elderly[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on blood pressure topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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