Getting Accurate Blood Pressure Readings at Home

Blood pressure readings at home are the best way to keep track of your blood pressure if you have hypertension, or if your doctor thinks you are at risk. Here’s how to get accurate blood pressure readings in the privacy of your home.

blood pressure readings

A home blood pressure monitoring chart can help you to keep track of your blood pressure readings.

The American Heart Association recommends that anyone with hypertension should be monitoring blood pressure at home. Monitoring at home is the best way to see if your treatment is working to control your blood pressure. [1,2]

Home monitoring may also help your doctor diagnose hypertension. Some people tend to have higher blood pressure readings in the doctor’s office due to anxiety, called “white coat” hypertension. Blood pressure readings can also  change throughout the day. Having a series of readings from home can help your doctor decide if you have hypertension and pick the best treatment. [1,2]

But just like in the doctor’s office, getting accurate blood pressure readings at home is the key; you must have good measuring techniques and strictly follow some specified procedures in order for your readings to be accurate. [1,2]

NEW HYPERTENSION GUIDELINES

Does 140/90 still serve as the threshold for high blood pressure? Revised hypertension guidelines issued by the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and American Heart Association (AHA) in late 2017 call for a lower reading. Click here for our report.

How to Measure Your Own Blood Pressure

Ask your doctor or pharmacist to help you pick an automatic, cuff-style, upper-arm blood pressure monitor. Monitors with a digital reading of your upper (systolic) and  lower (diastolic) numbers tend to be the most accurate. Finger or wrist monitors are not accurate enough, and are not recommended by AHA. [1,2]

Any monitor you chose needs to be validated. It is always a good idea to bring your new monitor to your doctors office and have the doctor or nurse watch you take your own pressure and check your reading against the office monitor. Your health care provider should make sure that the cuff fits your arm properly. Once your monitor and technique has been checked, you are ready to start monitoring at home. [1,2]

Here are 3 steps to accurate readings: [1,2]

  1. Ask your doctor when to take blood pressure readings. When you are just starting or if you have recently changed treatment, your doctor will probably have you check your blood pressure every morning and night, at about the same time. Once your pressure is stable, you may be able to measure less frequently. To get the best readings, take two or three readings. Wait about one minute between readings. If your monitor does not save the readings, make sure to write them down.
  2. Get ready. Prepare for taking your blood pressure. Do not take blood pressure right after getting out of bed. Take your blood pressure before breakfast. Avoid caffeine, tobacco, alcohol, and exercise for at least 30 minutes before a blood pressure check. Empty your bladder. Rest quietly for about 5 minutes before starting.
  3. Do it right. You should be sitting in a straight-backed chair, sitting up straight with your arm resting on a table at heart level. Place the cuff just above your elbow. Do not place the cuff over clothing, just on your bare arm. You can use either arm, but use the same arm each time. Do not cross your legs. Keep your feet flat on the ground. Now you are ready to take your blood pressure.

Even at home blood pressure reading can be different each time you test. It’s the average that your doctor will want to see. If you are getting wildly different readings, let your doctor know and have your pressure checked at the office. If you get a reading of 180 over 120, repeat it. If it is still that high contact your doctor right away. [1]

If you are pregnant, and you have high blood pressure with your pregnancy – called preeclampsia – your doctor may have you do blood pressure readings at home during pregnancy. If you have a heart rhythm abnormality, your doctor may prefer that you have your pressure checked in the office. These arrhythmias – like atrial fibrillation – may interfere with the accuracy of a home monitor. [1,2]

Many home blood pressure monitors will store your readings and you may be able to transfer the readings to your computer or phone. It is still a good idea to use a chart to keep track of the readings, times, and changes over time: [1]

Home BP Monitoring Sheet

Our blood pressure chart reflects the standard classification system adopted by the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure and by the American Heart Association.

Managing Your Blood Pressure

Monitoring is only one part of managing hypertension. Your doctor will use your results to help you come up with a treatment plan. Although there is no cure for hypertension, treatment can keep blood pressure low and avoid complications of hypertension like heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, loss of vision and sexual dysfunction. [1-3]

Treatment may start with lifestyle changes. These changes may reduce or delay high blood pressure. They include: [3]

  • A heart-healthy diet
  • Limiting salt
  • Getting exercise
  • Avoiding stress
  • Losing weight
  • Not smoking
  • Limiting or avoiding alcohol

If lifestyle changes are not enough, adding blood pressure medication may be necessary. [3] Our blood pressure articles will give you a snapshot of some natural treatments that may also help maintain a good blood pressure level.

Sources

  1. American Heart Association, Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings/monitoring-your-blood-pressure-at-home
  2. Mayo Clinic, Get the most out of home blood pressure monitoring, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20047889
  3. American Heart Association, Make changes that matter, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure

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Chris Iliades, MD

Chris Iliades has an MD degree and 15 years of experience as a freelance writer. Based in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, his byline has appeared regularly on many health and medicine … Read More

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  • Should the BP cuff be removed during the 2 to 5 minute rest between readings? Pros? Cons?
    I’ve been told if the cuff is left on, breakdown of the skin may occur from the cuff.

  • If you are a breast cancer survivor and have had lymph nodes removed from one arm don’t take your blood pressure on that arm.

  • I believe I have anxiety blood pressure. It’s high most times I take it. Iam always thinking about it. Iam always taking it. When I go to the doctor most times it pre high. When Iam busy Or occupied. Not thinking about it it’s normal. I drink hibiscus tea. Beet juice. Briggs vinegar with water. I eat healthy.

  • I had mild high blood pressure readings (132/83) at a doctor’s office, but not at home. My family has a strong history of skin cancer. Pushy young doctor put me on diuretics. Two years later, my bp is 122/78. But I now have skin cancer, almost certainly from the diuretics, which increase risk of skin cancer seven fold per recent studies. Wish I had never seen that doctor. Working up the nerve to terminate so my family doesn’t have to bear the cost of my demise. Be careful! Don’t trade one problem for a medicine-induced fatal disease!

  • The doc went all-panic mode once he saw a healthy guy like me with readings like 130/80 to 150/90. He put me on drugs which made me feel terrible and I even nearly fainted during the first several days. It’s not smart to jump to conclusions based on a single symptom. Heck, I can violently fart and my blood pressure would go 200-something for a few seconds if I wanted, but that doesn’t mean I need to go to ER and get cut up into a drug-filled viral blog post piniata about organic foods and evil pork bacons.

  • My BP was slightly elevated 130/90 at doctors office. So I lost 10 pounds, and readings lowered to average of 125/75. For three months I have been getting good readings with my home monitor. Last week the floodgates opened, and my stress levels went through the roof. I made the mistake of measuring my BP and now for two days they have been anywhere from 130/80 to 170/90. Which caused greater anxiety, and greater numbers. Don’t make the same mistake. Make sure you are relaxed (not anxious or panicky) when taking a reading. The article describes me to a tee. I will wait a week before any further readings, and FOLLOW the GUIDELINES.

  • I am having trouble getting accurate readings that I believe in , which is how I found this site. I have bouts of hypertensive crisis so it is very important that I measure what my blood pressure is between crisies to see how high it is to know how beat to treat.
    One issue I have is when I measure my blood pressure twice in a row (1-2 min later) the second reading is always substantially lower than the first. Now the conventional wisdom might say well that’s great that’s because there was some kind of test anxiety for the first one which then come down for the second reading. But I do not believe that. It seems just as likely that by compressing the arm you change the brachial blood pressure just supplying that one artery. So your blood pressure centrally and elsewhere remains just as high but your arm then gives a false low reading the second time. I’d like to know where the guidelines come from that say averaging two or three readings is the better way to do it – what research study is it based on? (I think they make this mistake in the hospital too, if you’ve ever been in hospital for hypertensive crisis).
    It also makes it difficult for me to calibrate how close to accurate my home monitor is compared to manuel in the office because of tbis confound. so it requires repeated trips reversing the order in which they take the measurements (between home machine and manual office )which I have been unable to do. Add to this that I have a very small arm and using the large coffee underestimate blood pressure (in me i think by 10 points but so hard to tell because of the order confound) and between everything I just have no idea what my real blood pressure is at home! I do not think these guidelines will help with my issues but overall they seem better than many
    Do others find any consistent difference between first and second readings?

    (@the poster henry let us know how youre doing. Yea docs and big pharma do at least as much harm as good. )

  • The problem I see here is that there is no mention of age.I do believe a 20 year old will have a lower BP than a 70 year old. Wear and tear through the ages has to raise BP and probably for a good reason. dont think it would be a good idea to drop it with drugs.

  • must blood pressure always be lower then 120/80 how about when the DR office is very very cold or temp out side is cold and you are shaking

  • I am currently taking 10mg of lisinopril. 1\2 tablet in the morning and 1\2 tablet after lunch. I was also on triameterene hctz in the morning. Was feeling so tired and lightheaded most of the day. Dr. told me to just take the lisinopril. Feeling better but blood pressure is usually high normal in the evening. She I still take the triameterene. Thanks for your help.

  • I have had hypertension since I was 28 years old. I was first told I had SVT and now I’m told I have a lot of PVCs. I have been on Inderal LA forever and Lisinopril for a long time but was dropped because my bp started to go too low. My cardiologist gave me Clonidine which I wouldn’t recommend to anybody. I was getting really high bp with that. I do find that anxiety does a number on me.

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