Accurate blood pressure readings at home

It is now common for people with chronic hypertension or high blood pressure to be able to monitor their blood pressure at home.  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:

·        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 or alcohol or wait at least 30 minutes after doing so.

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

·        Take blood pressure before exercising as it can be significantly different than usual after exercise.

·        When taking blood pressure, sit with both feet flat on the floor.  Stretch your arm with palm upward on a table or arm of a chair so that your arm is even with your heart.

·        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.