4 Steps to Monitor Your Blood Pressure At Home
Almost 108 million—or 50 percent of—adults in the United States are hypertensive. According to the National Institute of Health, hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is the most common preventable cause of cardiovascular disease, which is why having a home blood pressure monitor (HBPM) can be a pivotal step in your health care plan.
To help us learn more about the dos and don'ts of at-home blood pressure monitoring, we spoke with Jane Cero, a registered nurse at Abington – Jefferson Health.
Step One: Set up Your at-Home Station
Getting an accurate reading starts with acquiring the right equipment. Avoid using finger and wrist blood pressure machines as they are not as accurate as those with arm cuffs. Additionally, be sure to purchase a pharmacy-recommended blood pressure machine.
When taking your blood pressure at home, it is critical that you have the correct set-up: a table, a chair with a supportive back and the ability to have your feet flat on the ground.
“Once you have your positioning, there are just a few things you need to do in the 30 minutes prior to taking your blood pressure. In this 30-minute window you must: empty your bladder, avoid exercising and refrain from eating, drinking caffeinated beverages and consuming alcohol,” says Cero. “All of these factors can cause an inaccurate blood pressure reading, so be sure to take some time to relax.”
Step Two: Prepare for Your Reading
“Once you come back from the restroom, get situated in your seat and take a few, slow deep breaths,” says Cero. “When you feel calm, go ahead and grab your blood pressure arm cuff and place it around your upper arm. The cuff should feel tight and the tube should fall right over your brachial artery—the large vein in your arm.”
Once your arm cuff is positioned correctly, your next steps are to:
- Rest your arm on the table with your palm facing the ceiling
- Turn your blood pressure machine on
- Wait for your reading (this should take approximately 20 to 30 seconds)
- Do not talk while you are measuring your blood pressure
Step Three: Understand Your Results
When you measure your blood pressure, you are actually measuring the pressure of your blood against your body’s arteries and vessels. In other words, you are measuring the force of your heart pumping blood into your arteries.
“When your reading is complete, you’ll see two numbers on your machine’s screen: The top number is known as the systolic blood pressure—the pressure in your arteries when your heart is pumping—and the bottom number is known as the diastolic blood pressure—the pressure in your arteries when your heart is resting,” says Cero. “Normal systolic blood pressure is considered less than 120 mmHg—millimeters of mercury—and normal diastolic blood pressure is considered less than 80 mmHg. So really, you are looking for a reading of 120 over 80 or below.”
Step Four: Communicate With Your Health Care Team Regularly
After completing your at-home blood pressure reading, be sure to record it in a log that you can share with your healthcare provider.
“When you go for your regularly scheduled appointments, bring your blood pressure log, your at-home monitor and your health records with you,” said Cero. “Monitoring your health at home helps prevent strokes and heart attacks, but only if you share your findings with your doctor. They can help manage any concerns that you might have and address hypertension if it arises."