How to Measure Blood Pressure the Right Way

How to Measure Blood Pressure the Right Way

Why should I monitor my blood pressure at home?

Checking your blood pressure at home is an important part of managing your health, especially if you have a history of high blood pressure. 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. Some of the main reasons why your doctor will recommend measuring your blood pressure at home are:

  • Possibility of over treatment: Your blood pressure numbers maybe elevated in a clinic (white-coat hypertension) leading to possibility of over-treatment and taking medications that you didn't need.
  • Helps with early diagnosis: Doctor’s visits are typically in-frequent (Once or twice a year). Self-monitoring from home can help alert you of any changes in your blood pressure, allowing you to bring those findings to your doctor.  
  • Encourages proactivity:  Awareness of your numbers could that empowers and encourages you to 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.

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 which could be misleading for diagnosis and treatment. Guidelines can be found in Center for Disease Control.

CDC guidelines for the correct way to measure blood pressure 

When and How to measure blood pressure the right way at home:

  • When:
    • Measurement Prep: 30 mins before your measurement
      • No smoking
      • No coffee or caffeine drinks
      • No food
      • No exercise
      • Empty your bladder
      • Sit still for 5 mins before your measurement.
    • Measure The Same Time and Same Way Every Day: Blood Pressure varies throughout the day. Therefore, readings should be taken at the same time every day, regardless of if you are taking measurements in the morning, afternoon, or evening. This includes measurement site (right/left arm) and measurement location (sitting, standing or sleeping. Due to the variability, it is important to measure the same time and same way to make an apples to apples comparison of your blood pressure to observe any changes in your blood pressure. Another important factor to consider is when to take your medications as it can significantly impact your numbers. Talk to your doctor about if they want your measurements before or after taking your meds.
  • How:
    • Sit Still and Straight:
      • Don’t move or talk when the blood pressure machine is taking the measurement.
      • 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.
    • 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.
    • Cuff: Ensure that the bottom of the cuff is placed above your elbow. Strap the cuff such that it is not too tight or loose. Typically, the blood pressure monitor will have instructions and labels on the cuff for where you should place it. Don't 
    • Measure More Than Once: When you take a measurement, take another measurement after waiting for three minutes between measurements. This will help you identify any discrepancies in your readings, and you will be able to tell if the machine is operating appropriately. Average these measurements. Talk to your doctor if a third measurement is necessary for the average.

Accuracy of your BP Monitor

When you visit your doctor’s office, take your BP monitor with you, and measure your blood pressure and compare it with the doctor or nurse’s measurement to make sure that they are comparable.

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