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How to Measure Blood Pressure The Right Way

About the Author

This article was reviewed by Chelsea Crismas R.N. BSN
I am a Registered Nurse working in an intensive care unit in Northwest Arkansas. No one wants to be in the hospital; I enjoy being able to make that time a little easier on patients and their families. Personally, I enjoy reading, hiking, traveling, and playing with my dogs.
I am a Registered Nurse working in an intensive care unit in Northwest Arkansas. No one wants to be in the hospital; I enjoy being able to make that time a little easier on patients and their families. Personally, I enjoy reading, hiking, traveling, and playing with my dogs.

Photo by cottonbro at Pexels

Checking your blood pressure at home is an important part of managing your health, especially if you have a history of high blood pressure. Learning how to use your home blood pressure monitor accurately is essential, as many factors could significantly impact your readings. The American Heart Association has made a recommendation that anyone who has been diagnosed with high blood pressure should continue to monitor their blood pressure at home. Monitoring your blood pressure from home can help you learn whether your medication is working, as well as notice any abnormalities before they become larger issues.

Why should I monitor my blood pressure at home?

Keeping tabs on your health can allow you to report back to your doctor any findings you have regarding your blood pressure. Understanding your blood pressure reading can help you identify unhealthy blood pressure ranges. This can alert your healthcare providers to any issues you may be experiencing, as well as how well your current medication is working for you. Monitoring your blood pressure from home has several benefits, especially for those diagnosed with high blood pressure.

●     Helps with early diagnosis.  Getting your blood pressure read in a doctor’s office is usually infrequent, as you may only stop into the office one or two times a year. This means that your doctor may not pick up on any changes in your blood pressure, even if it is experiencing highs or lows. Self-monitoring from home can help alert you of any changes in your blood pressure, allowing you to bring those findings to your doctor.  

●     Possibility of over treatment.  Your blood pressure may be elevated during a doctor visit but could be in the normal range when at home. If you don't measure at home you wouldn't know of this and may end up taking medications that you didn't need. Medications come with side effects and of course additional costs.

●     Encourages proactivity.  Checking your blood pressure from home puts you in control of your health in a small, yet important way. You may feel more encouraged to manage and get your blood pressure in check, which could lead to a healthier diet and even a healthier overall lifestyle.

●     Helps track treatment plans.  How do you know whether your lifestyle changes, as well as your medications, are working? The best way is to frequently check your blood pressure to take note of any changes. Monitoring blood pressure changes at home can help your healthcare team make decisions regarding your treatment.

What if I get a high blood pressure reading?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is blood pressure that is higher than normal. High blood pressure may be diagnosed when readings are consistently above the normal range. One high reading is typically not a cause for concern, as your blood pressure changes throughout the day. However, if you have concerns about your blood pressure, it is important to get into contact with your healthcare team to discuss your readings. If you have high blood pressure, be sure to have a conversation with doctor regarding what blood pressure readings are too high or too low and when to call.

What can affect a blood pressure reading?

Many different factors can affect your blood pressure reading. If you are concerned about your reading in any way, it is important for you to contact your healthcare team. If you smoked, drank, or ate within the last 30 minutes before checking your blood pressure, that may have an impact on your reading. If you are sitting incorrectly, such as not laying your arm flat, that could also impact your reading. Even stress or anxiousness about a visit to the doctor could impact your blood pressure reading. This is sometimes referred to as white-coat hypertension. About one in five people have the condition.

What are home blood pressure monitors useful for?

Home blood pressure monitors may be useful in a few instances. In general, they are typically recommended for those who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. However, those that are also in the prehypertension stage may also find them useful for closely monitoring any changes. Those who are experiencing high blood pressure as a result of another condition may also find benefit with using home blood pressure monitors.

Steps to Measure The Right Way

While measuring your blood pressure at home is a great way to be proactive about your health, you will want to ensure that you are measuring your blood pressure the right way. Doing so incorrectly can lead to the blood pressure monitor giving you back an incorrect reading. The proper steps are listed below.

Measure The Same Time Every Day

Readings should be taken at the same time every day, regardless of if you are taking measurements in the morning, afternoon, or evening. You should also try to measure yourself every single day. This will help you get the most accurate reading. Also, make sure to check blood pressure if feeling unwell or experiencing signs or symptoms of high or low blood pressure. Log these symptoms while sharing them with your doctor.

Measure More Than Once

When you take a measurement, take another measurement after waiting a few minutes. This will help you identify any discrepancies in your readings, and you will be able to tell if the machine is operating appropriately.

Don’t Measure Over Clothing

Clothing interferes with how the blood pressure machine performs, so make sure you don’t have any clothing on the arm where you are taking the measurement.

Sit Still and Straight

Don’t move when the blood pressure machine is taking the measurement. Moving will affect the reading. You also don’t want to have just exercised or had a caffeinated beverage. Have your back firmly against something that is supportive. For instance, you would want to choose a dining chair over your comfy couch. Put your feet flat on the floor. If taking blood pressure on the upper arm (like most people) then the cuff is at heart level and the arm should simply be relaxed next to the body. If the person is using a wrist cuff, then the person should place wrist across chest, at about heart level.

Tip: The bottom of the cuff will need to be placed above your elbow. Typically, the blood pressure monitor will have instructions and labels on the cuff for where you should place it.

SmartBP: A Smarter Way to Manage Your Blood Pressure

SmartBP, a blood pressure measurement tracker compatible with GoogleFit and Apple Health, allows you access to a means to record your blood pressure measurements with ease. Record, track, and analyze your blood pressure readings all conveniently from your mobile device. Notice trends, dive into your data, and be more proactive about your health. This innovative tool lets you see what is and isn’t working with your treatment plan to give you better insight into your blood pressure management.

Regardless of the way you track your blood pressure, with an app or pen and paper, always take your results to your doctor appointments so your provider can make appropriate recommendations.

Important: The information provided is NOT a substitute for a doctor or professional healthcare or advice. Any health related information provided in SmartBP® app and this website is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the advice of healthcare professionals.

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