5 easy tips for blood pressure monitoring at home.
Blood pressure monitoring isn’t a one-and-done reading, especially if you have hypertension. It’s all about seeing the big picture. Partnering with your doctor to check your numbers at home is an important part of managing high blood pressure. While home readings don’t replace visits to the doctor, they can help you:1
Identify early symptoms. Self-monitoring can help your doctor diagnose high blood pressure earlier than if you have only occasional blood pressure readings at in-office checkups. Home monitoring is especially important if you have high blood pressure or another condition that could contribute to high blood pressure, such as diabetes or kidney problems.
- Know what’s working — and what isn’t. The only way to know whether your lifestyle changes or medications are working is to check your blood pressure regularly. Monitoring blood pressure changes at home can help you and your doctor make decisions about your treatment.
- Take control. Self-monitoring can give you a stronger sense of responsibility for your health. It might motivate you to exercise more, eat well and properly take your medications when you see that it pays off in your numbers.
- Reduce doctor visits. Self-monitoring could help you save on your healthcare expenses. Once you’ve reached a healthy blood pressure range, your doctor might suggest less frequent visits.
- Provide a healthy comparison. For some people, seeing the doctor is a source of anxiety and can cause a temporary spike in blood pressure. Home monitoring can help determine if your blood pressure is truly high, or within the normal range.
Should you monitor your blood pressure at home?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends home blood pressure monitoring if you’re experiencing these conditions:2
- You’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure/hypertension
- You’ve started high blood pressure treatment and need to determine if it’s working
- You have high-risk factors for blood pressure, or your doctor wants to monitor you more closely
- You have pregnancy-induced hypertension and/or preeclampsia
- You need to evaluate potentially false readings
Remember, If you’ve been prescribed medication to lower your blood pressure, don't stop taking it without consulting your doctor, even if your home blood pressure readings are in the normal range.
Accuracy is everything. Follow these five tips to get a true reading at home.
- Take it easy. Don't smoke, drink caffeinated beverages or exercise within 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure. Empty your bladder and rest for at least five minutes beforehand.2
- Position yourself properly. Sit with your back straight and supported (on a chair, rather than a sofa). Your feet should be flat on the floor and your legs should not be crossed. Your arm should be supported on a flat surface (such as a table) with the upper arm at heart level. Make sure the bottom of the blood pressure cuff is placed directly above the bend in your elbow.2
- Measure like clockwork. It’s important to take readings at the same time each day, such as morning and evening. Daily monitoring is ideal, but if that’s not possible, start daily checks beginning within two weeks after a change in treatment, and during the week before your next appointment.2
- Establish a track record. Take multiple readings and keep track of the results. A record of readings taken over time provides a “time-lapse” picture of your blood pressure for your physician to evaluate.2 Each time you measure, take two or three readings one minute apart and record the results. If your monitor has built-in memory to store your readings, such as the Medline Digital Blood Pressure Monitor, take it with you to your appointments.
- Roll up your sleeves. A close fit is important, so don't take the measurement over clothes.2 If rolling up your sleeve makes it too tight, you may need to slip your arm out of your shirt to get an accurate reading.1
If you can't find a blood pressure cuff to properly fit your upper arm, try using a wrist monitor, like the Medline Plus Digital Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor. Monitors like this one make it easy to track your numbers with quick digital readings, memory logs and a color gauge, so you can easily see if you’re within a healthy range.
What do the numbers mean?
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters, using two numbers:3
- The first number — systolic blood pressure — represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
- The second number — diastolic blood pressure — represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.
What’s normal? Here are the numbers you need to know, according to the AHA: