Improving accuracy of home blood pressure readings

Improving accuracy of home blood pressure readings

Managing and monitoring blood pressure from home is common for many people with chronic hypertension or high blood pressure. This eliminates time-consuming and unnecessary trips to the doctor’s office for just a brief check of their blood pressure.  This convenience has many advantages for anyone who should keep track of their blood pressure readings:

 Nurse measuring blood pressure of senior woman at home. Smiling to each other. Young nurse measuring blood pressure of elderly woman at home. Doctor checking elderly woman's blood pressure

·      Some people have “white coat syndrome” where their blood pressure can rise or fall at the doctor’s office due to anxiety resulting in a reading that isn’t representative of typical for them.

 ·      Taking your blood pressure at home regularly and providing your readings to your doctor’s office gives better tracking of treatment progress.  Since high blood pressure has no symptoms, you can manage your pressure by checking it routinely.

·      Having the responsibility of checking your blood pressure daily may motivate you to improve it by eating a healthier diet, being more physically active and taking any medications prescribed. 

·      You’ll cut down on your health care costs since checking blood pressure at home reduces the number of visits to the doctor’s office.  There is the initial investment of purchasing a home monitoring device – they range from $50 to $100 – but this is still far less than the trip to the doctor’s office.

To get more accurate and consistent blood pressure readings from a home blood pressure monitor follow these tips:

·      Be consistent by using the same arm each time and at the same time of day. 

·      It is advised to take your blood pressure between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and before taking any blood pressure medication.  Blood pressure is usually at its highest during these times but if it is well-controlled during then, it will likely be well-controlled at other times of the day. 

·      Take your blood pressure before eating or using caffeine, alcohol or exercise and wait at least 30 minutes after doing so.  Rest quietly at least 5 minutes before take measurements. 

·      Use the bathroom before taking a blood pressure reading as a full bladder can slightly increase it.

·      When taking blood pressure, sit correctly.  Sit with your back straight and supported (on a dining chair rather than a sofa).  Your feet should be flat on the floor and your legs should not be crossed.  Stretch your arm with palm upward supported on a flat surface (such as a table) with the upper arm at heart level.  Make sure the bottom of the cuff is placed directly above the bend of the elbow.  

·      Place the cuff on your bare arm – do not roll up a sleeve that might constrict your upper arm.

·      Before taking a reading, calm yourself for 3-5 minutes.  After taking a reading, rest quietly for one minute and take a second reading.  The first reading will often be higher than the second reading. 

If a high blood pressure is recorded, it is important to measure two additional times, waiting a few minutes between measurements.

Blood pressure of 120/80 or above is considered elevated; 130/80 to 139/89 is considered Stage 1 hypertension and anything 140/90 or above is considered stage 2 hypertension, according to the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology guidelines.

If blood pressure reaches 180/120 or higher – and either number in the blood pressure reading counts – people will be classified as in hypertensive crisis with need for immediate treatment or hospitalization.   

Blood pressure varies throughout the day, and readings are often a little higher in the morning. Also, your blood pressure might be slightly lower at home than in a medical office, typically by about five points.

Contact your doctor if you have any unusual or persistent increases in your blood pressure. Ask your doctor what reading should prompt an immediate call to the medical office.