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Why you might want to check your blood pressure at home

An older man using a blood pressure monitor at home.

July 15, 2020—Do you know how to measure your blood pressure at home? If you’re at risk for high blood pressure or know you have hypertension, it’s a good skill to have. Especially during this pandemic, when you may have fewer chances to check your blood pressure at the pharmacy and doctor’s office.

Checking your blood pressure with a home monitor is more than convenient. It can even be more accurate than an in-office reading. Some people have higher-than-usual blood pressure when it’s checked in a doctor’s office. It’s called white-coat hypertension. And some people have lower-than-usual readings, called masked hypertension. A more accurate home reading can give you and your doctor a better picture of your overall heart health.

How to check your blood pressure at home

Your first step to tracking your blood pressure at home is to buy a good home monitor. You can find a list of monitors validated for accuracy here. You’ll want to make sure the cuff size is correct for your arm. A cuff that is too small can give an inaccurate reading.

Be sure to get a monitor with an arm cuff. Arm cuffs are more accurate than finger or wrist cuffs.

Many devices are automated. All you have to do is put on the cuff and press a button. Your reading will be displayed digitally on the screen. You may want to get a device that stores your readings. Or you can keep a log of your readings to bring to your next doctor’s visit.

Keep these tips in mind before you take your blood pressure:

  • Don’t smoke, exercise, eat a meal or drink caffeine 30 minutes beforehand.
  • Sit still for 5 minutes before starting the test.
  • If you’re on blood pressure medication, measure your blood pressure before taking your medication.
  • Empty your bladder beforehand. A full bladder can result in an inaccurate reading.

When you take your blood pressure:

  • Put the cuff on your bare arm, above the elbow at mid-arm.
  • Rest your arm on a table. The cuff should be at heart level.
  • Keep your arm supported, palm side up.
  • Sit with your legs uncrossed. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep your back supported.
  • Take two or three measurements, 1 minute apart.
  • Keep your body relaxed and in position throughout.
  • Sit quietly with no distractions. Don’t talk, use the phone or watch TV.
  • Record your measurements.

You should check your blood pressure at the same times each day—such as twice in the morning and twice in the evening for one week. Then go over the results with your doctor.

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