Testing Your Blood Pressure At Home
Your GP may suggest 24-hour or ambulatory blood pressure monitoring if they think you may have high blood pressure .
ABPM tests your blood pressure regularly over 24 hours, by using a cuff attached to a portable device that’s worn on your waist.
You can continue with your daily activities during this time.
If you want to regularly check your blood pressure at home, you can buy a machine.
When And Where To Get Your Blood Pressure Tested
You should have a blood pressure test if you’re worried about your blood pressure at any time.
If you’re over 40, you can have this test done as part of an NHS Health Check, which is offered to adults in England aged 40 to 74 every 5 years.
If you have been diagnosed with high or low blood pressure, or you have a high risk of developing either, you may need more frequent checks of your blood pressure.
You can get your blood pressure tested at a number of places, including:
- your local GP surgery
- some workplaces
If You Get A High Blood Pressure Reading
- A single high reading is not an immediate cause for alarm. If you get a reading that is slightly or moderately higher than normal, take your blood pressure a few more times and consult your healthcare professional to verify if there s a health concern or whether there may be any issues with your monitor.
- If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and test again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis.
- If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg and you are experiencing signs of possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision, difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. Call 911.
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How To Take Blood Pressure At Home
A home blood-pressure monitor enables you to take readings on your own. Devices range from arm cuffs to wrist cuffs and even watches though Dr. Elaine Chin says the former is best.
“The cuff that goes on the forearm is more standardized than a wrist version,” Chin said. “It’s all automatic. They’re one-button-push devices and are very easy.”
Chin recommends that when you’re taking your blood pressure at home, take readings at two points each day: morning and evening. Your doctor may recommend taking multiple readings per session, with a short break in between, to ensure accuracy. If you keep getting an unusual reading, you should follow up with your doctor.
Blood pressure is notoriously higher in the morning, and research has found that morning blood-pressure readings can be a better indicator of stroke risk than evening readings. In fact, a 2016 report in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology observed that morning blood-pressure readings taken at home were stronger predictors of stroke and coronary artery disease risk than in-office readings taken by a doctor.
“Make sure blood pressure is taken upon awakening, as soon as you roll out of bed, and make sure you’re sitting,” Chin said. “Keep doing the blood-pressure monitoring around the same time each day.”
Once you’re ready, here’s a step-by-step guide from Harvard Medical School:
Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring Devices/abpm
This is most commonly used if there is a significant disparity between the blood pressure readings acquired at home and at a doctors clinic.
It is a small device worn by the patient at home or anywhere he goes. It also shows the blood pressure readings automatically and accurately every thirty minutes even if the patient is asleep. This device is usually given to pregnant women and patients with the so-called White Coat Syndrome discussed above.
ABPM comes with an arm cuff or wrist cuff and should be worn the whole day even while doing chores and exercises.
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What Steps Should I Take While Checking My Blood Pressure At Home
Before taking your blood pressure
- Find a quiet place.
- Check to be sure you have the correct size cuff. If you are not sure, or if you have questions, talk to your healthcare provider.
- Roll up the sleeve on your left arm or remove any tight-sleeved clothing, if needed.
- Rest in a chair next to a table for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Sit up straight with your back against the chair, legs uncrossed and on the ground.
- Rest your forearm on the table with the palm of your hand facing up.
- You should not talk, read the newspaper, or watch television during this process.
Taking your blood pressure
If you buy a manual or digital blood pressure monitor , follow the instruction booklet carefully.
Record your blood pressure
If you have been asked to record your blood pressure and bring your readings to the office, please write down the date, time of day, systolic and diastolic numbers, heart rate, and which arm you took the reading on. If you are taking part in a program that has remote monitoring, your blood pressure readings are automatically shared with your medical provider. If you are unsure, please ask your provider.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/23/2018.
What Does Your Blood Pressure Reading Mean
If this is your first time taking your blood pressure, discuss the results with your doctor. Blood pressure is a very individualized vital sign reading, which means it can be very different for each person. Some people have naturally low blood pressure all the time, for example, while others may run on the higher side.
In general, a normal blood pressure is considered anything less than 120/80. Your own personal blood pressure will depend on your gender, age, weight, and any medical conditions you have. If you do register a blood pressure reading of 120/80 or over, wait two to five minutes and recheck.
If its still high, talk to your doctor to rule out hypertension. If your blood pressure ever goes over 180 systolic or over 120 diastolic after a repeat reading, seek emergency medical care right away.
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About Heart And Vascular Institute
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine.
What Else Is Important When Checking My Blood Pressure
Many factors can influence your blood pressure reading. The following guidelines will help you get the best and most accurate results from your blood pressure monitoring.
Avoid Blood Pressure Spikers
Certain factors can increase your blood pressure. It is important to understand how these âspikersâ affect your BP numbers. To learn their effect, check your BP before and after you experience each of the factors listed below. Once you know their effect, avoid these spikers before your daily checkup routine. This will prevent them from interrupting your baseline measurement and will allow you to see if your standard BP is stable. As you establish your BP routine, use the following guidelines to control spikes in your readings.
Choose A Good Machine
Myriad choices exist in todayâs marketplace for home blood pressure monitoring devices. Not all are equal. Be sure to choose an FDA-approved device. Once you have selected a machine, it not a bad idea to take it in to your doctorâs office. Take your blood pressure reading in front of your physician, nurse or PA so they can ensure you are using it properly. Have them to take an additional reading on their machine, to compare for accuracy.
Take the Proper Position for Reliable Blood Pressure ReadingsEnsure you are positioned correctly for accurate blood pressure readings. Put your feet on the floor and straighten your back with arms supported at heart level. Make sure your elbow is at about the same level as your heart.
What Are The Benefits
There is a substantial evidence base supporting the use of home blood pressure monitoring. It has been shown to:
- give a better reflection of blood pressure, as being tested in somewhere like a GP surgery can make patients feel anxious and can affect the result
- allow patients to monitor their condition more easily in the long term
- reduce the incidence of clinical events such as death, heart attack or stroke, over five years
- save GP time by shifting care from doctors to other members of the multidisciplinary team
- be cost effective.
Regular home blood pressure monitoring across a population of 50,000 patients could prevent up to 500 heart attacks and 745 strokes over five years. This video produced UCLPartners describes the benefits of remote monitoring blood pressure.
What Is Normal Blood Pressure
According to the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, a normal blood-pressure reading is 120/80 mm Hg, though normal blood-pressure ranges are different for children.
The upper number, or the systolic reading, will be the first to increase with blood pressure, and greater than 120 is considered elevated. Hypertension occurs over 130 and 140 this is the time to speak with your doctor if you haven’t already. Readings greater than 180/120 mm Hg may be a symptom of hypertensive crisis, and you should contact your physician or emergency services, especially if you also feel chest pain or shortness of breath.
However, Chin said that when you begin measuring at home, the first few days aren’t always accurate. You may want to be extra careful until you get comfortable with the process. “There is often anxiety when people first start to use their blood-pressure cuff, which can make the numbers higher than it should be,” Chin said.
In addition to anxiety or stress, several lifestyle factors, such as a high-sodium diet, a lack of exercise, and smoking cigarettes, can cause high blood pressure. Chin suggested adopting the DASH diet, which she said can lower blood pressure in as little as two weeks.
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What Is A Blood Pressure Measurement
Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood into your arteries. A blood pressure measurement is a test that measures the force in your arteries as your heart pumps. Blood pressure is measured as two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure measures pressure inside your arteries when the heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure measures the pressure inside the artery when the heart rests between beats.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects tens of millions of adults in the United States. It increases the risk of life-threatening conditions including heart attack and stroke. But high blood pressure rarely causes symptoms. A blood pressure measurement helps diagnose high blood pressure early, so it may be treated before it leads to serious complications.
Other names: blood pressure reading, blood pressure test, blood pressure screening, sphygmomanometry
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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Why Does My Blood Pressure Vary Throughout The Day
You may have heard the term circadian rhythm. If so, you know this is not a beat to keep on the dance floor. It is a biological cycle your body follows. As defined by the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, âCircadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment.â As your body cycles through this rhythm each day, responding to both internal and external stimuli, your blood pressure is affected.
The study of these important rhythms, known as chronobiology, was founded by Franz Halberg. His work in this field has helped identify abnormal rhythms in day-night blood pressure readings.Keeping the Beat of Blood PressureFollowing this chronobiological rhythm, your blood pressure is normally higher during the daytime and lower at night, during sleeping hours. Hereâs the problem. People with high blood pressure often donât experience this night time dip. This lack of a lowering of blood pressure at night is referred to as non-dipping.Whatâs the big deal? Heart attack and stroke have been found to be associated with non-dipping. Your blood pressure stays elevated, and your body is not in the relaxed state it should be during rest.
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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Why Do I Need A Blood Pressure Test
A blood pressure measurement is often included as part of a regular checkup. Adults 18 years and older should have their blood pressure measured at least once every two to five years. You should get tested every year if you have certain risk factors. You may be at higher risk if you:
- Are 40 years old or older
- Are overweight or have obesity
- Are Black/African American. Black/African Americans have a higher rate of high blood pressure than other racial and ethnic groups
You may need this test if you have symptoms of low blood pressure.
What Support Is Available For Nhs Staff
The has a number of resources to support NHS staff to implement home blood pressure monitoring in their local area, such as:
- Standard Operating Procedure
- Webinars and staff training videos
- Patient stratification tools
Alternatively, the British and Irish Hypertension Society have resources for healthcare professionals.
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What Support Is Available For Patients
The British Heart Foundation has a wide range of tools and information available to support patients learn about their high blood pressure. These resources can be found on their Manage your blood pressure at home hub, which was created to help measure and manage blood pressure at home during the pandemic. It includes:
- How to measure blood pressure at home video: Video demonstration with a BHF senior cardiac nurse, showing patients how to measure blood pressure at home.
- High blood pressure and coronavirus: BHF medical experts answer questions about how the COVID-19 coronavirus can affect people with heart disease, including hypertension.
- Six tips for reducing blood pressure:Tips to help reduce your blood pressure, or control it, following a diagnosis of high blood pressure.
- Understanding blood pressure booklet: Booklet for people with high blood pressure to help them understand the condition. Including information on what high blood pressure is and how to reduce it. This is available to download or to order in print.
- Online community: Free online space for people with heart and circulatory conditions to get information and support from people who are going through similar situations.
Other useful resources:
Buy A Blood Pressure Monitor
Pharmacies and online merchants sell a variety of blood pressure monitors. Monitors typically range in price from $50 to $100, although a higher price doesn’t necessarily correlate to better quality. Ask your health insurance company whether it will cover part or all of the cost.
When shopping for a blood pressure monitor, look for these features:
Buy a monitor that goes around your upper arm. Dr. Zusman doesn’t recommend wrist or finger monitors because they aren’t as accurate.
An automatic monitor is easiest to use, because it doesn’t require a stethoscope and the cuff inflates by itself. Manual monitors require you to squeeze a bulb to inflate the cuff, which can be hard to do if you have arthritis.
Choose a monitor that meets standards for your age and health conditions according to an organization such as the European Society of Hypertension, dabl Educational Trust, or the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation . Each organization has posted its list of approved devices on its website.
Make sure the cuff fits your arm. If it’s too large or too small, the reading won’t be accurate.
Check that the numbers on the dial or display are large enough for you to read clearly.
Determine what other features you want in a blood pressure monitor. Some monitors will take an average of your last few readings, record your measurements over time, and send them to your doctor via your smartphone.
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Determine When To Take Your Blood Pressure
For most women, Dr. Zusman recommends taking two to three blood pressure readings in the morning and two to three readings at night, a few times a week. Don’t go overboard and take your blood pressure constantly. That’s counterproductive. “You become so focused on your blood pressure that every time the cuff comes near your arm your blood pressure goes up just from the anxiety,” says Dr. Zusman.
What Equipment Do I Need To Measure My Blood Pressure At Home
To measure your blood pressure at home, you can use either an aneroid monitor or digital monitor. Choose the type of monitor that best meets your needs. Look at the following features when you select a monitor.
- Size: The right cuff size is very important. The cuff size you need is based on the size of your arm. You can ask the doctor, nurse, orpharmacist to help you. Blood pressure readings can be wrong if your cuff is the wrong size.
- Price: Cost may be a key factor. Home blood pressure units vary in price. You may want to shop around to find the best deal. Keep in mind that pricey units may not be the best or most accurate.
- Display: The numbers on the monitor should be easy for you to read.
- Sound: You must be able to hear your heartbeat through the stethoscope.
Tests show that finger and wrist devices do not always provide correct measurements. These devices are sensitive to placement and body temperature. They also are expensive and can cost more than $100.
The aneroid monitor manually checks your blood pressure. It has a gauge that you read by looking at a pointer on the dial. The cuff goes around your upper arm and you squeeze a rubber bulb to inflate it by hand.
Inflation of the cuff is either automatic or manual, depending on the model. Deflation is automatic. Digital monitors are good for hearing-impaired patients, since there is no need to listen to your heartbeat through the stethoscope.
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