- The Washington Times - Friday, June 27, 2014

Size matters, the Food and Drug Administration says, at least when it comes to mechanized cuffs at those ubiquitous blood-pressure kiosks.

Blood pressure is an important indication of heart health, but the desk-like readers that people use in pharmacies, airports and elsewhere will not provide an accurate reading if the cuff doesn’t fit the user’s arm.

Using a too-small cuff may produce an artificially high reading, while a too-larger cuff “may not work at or result in an inaccurately low blood pressure reading,” the agency said.

While doctors are able to use small cuffs for children or large cuffs for, say, a football linebacker, kiosks are less flexible.

“They are easily accessible and easy to use. But it’s misleading to think that the devices are appropriate for everybody,” said Luke Herbertson, a biomedical engineer at the FDA. “They are not one-size-fits-all.”

High blood pressure, of hypertension, has been called a “silent killer” because it increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, kidney failure even if it does not show any symptoms.

Blood pressure fluctuates, though, so it is important to monitor one’s rate frequently and properly. It’s just that with kiosks, the cuff may not fit and people may not use the device properly.

“That’s why people shouldn’t overreact to any one reading from a kiosk,” the FDA said.