Choosing A Home Blood Pressure Monitor
The American Heart Association recommends an automatic, cuff-style, bicep monitor.
- Wrist and finger monitors are not recommended because they yield less reliable readings.
- Choose a monitor that has been validated. If you are unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice or find options at validatebp.org.
- When selecting a blood pressure monitor for a senior, pregnant woman or child, make sure it is validated for these conditions.
- Make sure the cuff fits measure around your upper arm and choose a monitor that comes with the correct size cuff.
When Should Someone Check Their Blood Pressure At Home
“Knowing your blood pressure is helpful for identifying risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, like stroke,” says Jennifer Wong, MD, cardiologist and medical director of Non-Invasive Cardiology at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California. Technically, anybody can check their blood pressure at home, but cardiologists say there are a few groups that would benefit most:
Manual Blood Pressure Monitors
Manual models are like the ones that might be used in your doctor’s office. They usually include an arm cuff, a squeeze bulb to inflate the cuff, a stethoscope or microphone, and a gauge to measure the blood pressure.
To take your blood pressure, you inflate the cuff around your upper arm. This stops the flow of blood in the artery for a short time. You place the stethoscope on the skin over the artery. As you release air from the cuff, you listen for the sound of the blood as it starts to flow through the artery again.
The reading on the gauge when blood flow is first heard is the systolic pressure. The reading when blood flow can no longer be heard is the diastolic pressure.
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What If I Dont Have Equipment
You dont need a blood pressure cuff to take your resting heart rate, which is another measurement that helps indicate heart health. Digital monitors usually display both blood pressure and heart rate, but you can determine the latter on your own by checking your pulse by hand. Your pulse is how many times your heart pumps per minute.
First, locate the artery below the thumb on the inside of your wrist and place two fingers there. Count how many times you feel your heartbeat over a 15-second period, and then multiply your count by four to get your resting heart rate.
When youre checking pulse by hand, youre looking for more than just a number. Youre also checking for a regular rhythm, which indicates a strong pulse.
At Home With A Monitor
Home monitoring can be a great way to keep track of your blood pressure on a daily basis.
With home monitoring, you can check your blood pressure throughout the day and at times that are convenient for you. It can help you see how your blood pressure changes throughout the day and help you get a sense of your average blood pressure range.
However, youll need to purchase a blood pressure monitor to do this. Youll also need to learn how to use it and how to record accurate readings.
Its not complicated to learn the basics of many home monitors, but it can still be easy to make a mistake.
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Don’t Drink Caffeine Or Exercise 30 Minutes Beforehand
“Caffeine can elevate your blood pressure, so it is best to avoid for 30 minutes before taking your reading,” Dr. Andersen explains. “Your blood pressure increases as you exercise, and it will take a few minutes for it to return to baseline.”
If you find that your blood pressure is consistently high, it’s time to call your doctor, Dr. Wong says. “You’ll want to see your doctor and come up with a treatment plan,” she says. “We tend to start with lifestyle modifications and go from there. But getting treated is crucial.”
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What Is It Used For
A blood pressure measurement is most often used to diagnose high blood pressure.
Blood pressure that’s too low, known as hypotension, is much less common. But you may get tested for low blood pressure if you have certain symptoms. Unlike high blood pressure, low blood pressure usually causes symptoms. These include:
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Tips For Checking Your Own Blood Pressure
There are certain factors that can cause blood pressure to temporarily rise. For example, blood pressure normally rises as a result of:
- Certain medicines
Try to avoid as many of these factors as you can when taking your blood pressure. Also, try to measure your blood pressure at about the same time each day. Your doctor may want you to check your blood pressure several times during the day to see if it fluctuates.
Apps To Track Blood Pressure
Although there are apps that promise to check your blood pressure without using equipment, this isnt an accurate or reliable method.
However, there are apps available that can help you track your blood pressure results. This can be helpful in identifying patterns in your blood pressure. Your doctor may use this information to determine if you require blood pressure medications.
Some examples of free blood pressure-monitoring apps include:
- Blood Pressure Monitor Family Litefor iPhone. You can enter your blood pressure, weight, and height, as well as track the medications you take.
- Blood Pressure for Android. This app tracks your blood pressure and features several statistical and graphical analysis tools.
- Blood Pressure Companion for iPhone. This app allows you to track your blood pressure as well as view graphs and trends on your blood pressure readings across several days or weeks.
These apps can help you quickly and easily track your blood pressure readings. Measuring your blood pressure regularly on the same arm can help you most accurately track your blood pressure readings.
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What Is A Healthy Blood Pressure Reading
Your blood pressure measures the force of the blood being pushed through your body as your heart beats.
The first number is called your systolic pressure. It measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart pumps. The second number is called your diastolic pressure, which measures the pressure in your blood vessels in between heartbeats.
A blood pressure reading is considered healthy if it is 120/80 millimeters of mercury or below. Any blood pressure above this is considered elevated or abnormal.
A single blood pressure reading in the higher range isnt cause for concern, but if youre regularly getting higher readings, a medical professional will make a plan to help you lower your numbers.
Elevated blood pressure categories include:
Where Can I Get My Blood Pressure Checked
You can get your blood pressure measured
- By a health care team member at a doctors office.
- At a pharmacy that has a digital blood pressure measurement machine.
- With a home blood pressure monitor that you can use yourself.
Take this form pdf icon with you on your first blood pressure visit to record important blood pressure-related information.
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When To Call Yourdoctor
Its normal for blood pressure to fluctuate throughout theday, so theres no need to panic if you get an occasional reading that seemshigh. Really, we worry most significantly about blood pressure when its elevatedfor a prolonged period of time, Dr. Laffin explains.
If your systolic blood pressure is consistently higher than 180 mmHg, thats something worth callingyour doctor about.
If at any time youre having these high blood pressures andalso having chest pressure, chest pain, headaches or shortness of breath, youshould be seen by a doctor more urgently, he says.
How To Monitor Blood Pressure Correctly
Follow these steps to correctly measure your blood pressure. If you have questions, contact your healthcare team.
Be sure to see your healthcare provider if youre consistently having high blood pressure readings at home.
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Home Monitoring And Blood Pressure Goals
Home blood pressure monitoring can help guide your treatment by showing whether your medicines are working or if you need to take a different approach. A study published in March 2013 in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes found that people who monitored their blood pressure at home were more likely to reach their blood pressure goals than those who were monitored only by their doctor.
Anyone who has high blood pressure, or is at risk for it, can benefit from home blood pressure monitoring, especially women with diabetes or kidney disease. You might also want to consider taking your blood pressure at home if your levels tend to fluctuate. Getting an accurate accounting of the variations will help your doctor better treat your blood pressure.
Women with symptoms such as dizziness or headaches can also take regular readings “to see if their symptoms correlate to their blood pressure,” Dr. Zusman says.
Some conditions can make it harder to take your own blood pressureparticularly if you have an irregular heart rhythm known as atrial fibrillation. If this is uncontrolled, you may not be able to get an accurate reading with a home blood pressure monitor. Even if your arrhythmia is controlled, you may need to take your blood pressure several times in a row for accuracy.
If you’re interested in home blood pressure monitoring, here’s how to get started.
Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About A Blood Pressure Measurement
If you were diagnosed with high blood pressure, your provider may recommend one or more of the following lifestyle changes.
- Exercise regularly. Staying active can help lower your blood pressure and also help manage your weight. Most adults should aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Check with your provider before beginning an exercise program.
- Keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing as little as 5 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetable, and whole grains. Limit foods high in saturated fat and total fat.
- Reduce salt in your diet. Most adults should have less than 1500 mg of salt per day.
- Limit alcohol use. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to one drink a day if you are a woman two drinks a day if you’re a man.
- Don’t smoke.
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Understanding Your Blood Pressure Reading
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury and is given as 2 numbers:
- systolic pressure the pressure when your heart pushes blood out
- diastolic pressure the pressure when your heart rests between beats
The highest number is always the systolic pressure and it’s always given first. For example, a blood pressure given as “120 over 80” or 120/80mmHg means a systolic pressure of 120mmHg and a diastolic pressure of 80mmHg.
As a general guide:
- normal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg
- high blood pressure is considered to be 140/90mmHg or higher
- low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60mmHg or lower
If your reading is between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg, you may be at risk of developing high blood pressure. There are things you can do to help prevent high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Cuff Placement
Most blood pressure reading errors are the result of improper sizing of the blood pressure cuff or placing the cuff over clothing. Improper placement of the cuff over clothing can cause your blood pressure measurement to increase by 10 to 50 points. If the cuff is too small, it can add 2 to 10 points to your bp measurement. Be sure to roll up your sleeve for a blood pressure test and also let your doctor know if the cuff feels too tight around your arm.
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What Will This Summary Tell Me
This summary will help you learn about measuring your blood pressure at home. It is created to help you and your doctor decide if checking your blood pressure at home is a good idea for you. This summary will also tell you about the research on blood pressure monitors and will give you questions to ask your doctor.
A review of 49 research studies was done for the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality , a Federal research agency, to understand the benefits of self-measuring blood pressure. The report was reviewed by clinicians, researchers, experts, and the public. You can read the report at www.effectivehealthcare.ahrq.gov/selfmeasuredbp.cfm.
This summary will not tell you about medicines used to treat high blood pressure.
How To Use An Automated Blood Pressure Machine
The easiest way to take your own blood pressure is to purchase an automated cuff. Automatic blood pressure machines are the easiest to use, and theyre helpful if you have any hearing impairments.
These types of blood pressure cuffs have a digital monitor that will display your blood pressure reading on a screen. You can purchase these online, at most grocery stores, or at a health food store.
The American Heart Association recommends an automatic, upper arm blood pressure monitor for at-home use. To use your digital blood pressure monitor, follow the instructions that come with it. You can also take the monitor to your doctors office, or even your local pharmacy, for a demonstration.
You should also purchase a small notebook to start a blood pressure log. This can be helpful for your doctor. You can a free blood pressure log from the AHA.
Machines can give you a different reading than a manual blood pressure reading. Bring your cuff to your next doctors appointment so you can compare the reading from your cuff to the reading your doctor takes. This can help you calibrate your machine and identify levels you should look for on your own device.
Its also important to purchase a high-quality machine and monitor for errors. Even if you check your blood pressure at home, your doctor will still want to manually check it during appointments.
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How Can I Check My Blood Pressure At Home A Step
2 Minute Read
Many people with high blood pressure check their own blood pressure at home. However, you dont need to have a high blood pressure diagnosis to do so yourself.
Your blood pressure is the amount of force placed on the walls of your blood vessels as your heart pumps blood. What you learn from taking your blood pressure can improve your lifestyle and may prevent a future, life-changing diagnosis.
How Does A Blood Pressure Monitor Work
Blood pressure is measured using a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure monitor. It consists of an inflatable cuff thats wrapped around your arm, roughly level with your heart, and a monitoring device that measures the cuffs pressure.
The monitor measures two pressures: systolic, and diastolic. Systolic pressure is higher, occurring when your heart beats and pushes blood through the arteries, and diastolic pressure is measured when your heart is resting and filling with blood. So, for example, your blood pressure might be 120 over 80.
Blood pressure monitors may be manual or digital, but home monitors are usually digital and the whole measurement process is automatic apart from placing the cuff around your arm.
The cuff then inflates until it fits tightly around your arm, cutting off your blood flow, and then the valve opens to deflate it. As the cuff reaches your systolic pressure, blood begins to flow around your artery. This creates a vibration thats detected by the meter, which records your systolic pressure. In a traditional analogue sphygmomanometer, the blood sounds are detected by the doctor using a stethoscope.
As the cuff continues to deflate, it reaches your diastolic pressure, and the vibration stops. The meter senses this, and records the pressure again.
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Tips For Taking Your Blood Pressure At Home
Its not uncommon for patients to have normal blood pressure readings at home but high blood pressure readings at their doctor appointments. This can be very frustrating for hypertensive patients, especially those who are diligent about keeping their high blood pressure under control.
Patients often are nervous about what their blood pressure will be when its measured at their doctors office, and that anxiety causes their blood pressure to go up. Its known as white coat hypertension, and its particularly common among elderly patients.
For that reason, I encourage my patients who take hypertension medication to monitor their blood pressure numbers at home.