Get 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 at home

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

© Punnarong Lotulit | iStock/GettyImages Plus

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.

Get the Right Blood Pressure Monitor

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]

How to Get an Accurate Blood Pressure Reading at Home

1. Ask your doctor when to take blood pressure readings.

Checking blood pressure too often can cause you to experience more stress and possible short-term high readings. 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 on a blood pressure monitor chart.

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.

2. Properly 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. Follow proper form.

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. [1,2]

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. A blood pressure reading of 180 over 120 should have you taking your blood pressure again. If it is still that high, contact your doctor right away. [1]

For pregnant women who have high blood pressure with 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:

Track Your BP on a Home Blood Pressure Log

blood pressure log

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. [1]

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:

  • 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]

RECOMMENDED FOR YOU

SOURCES

  1. American Heart Association, Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home
  2. Mayo Clinic, Get the most out of home blood pressure monitoring
  3. American Heart Association, Make changes that matter

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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

View all posts by Chris Iliades, MD

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