Know Your Blood Pressure Numbers
Can I Check my Blood Pressure at Home?
Monitoring blood pressure at home is important for many people, especially if you have high blood pressure. This helps you and your doctor track your blood pressure more closely to determine if treatment is keeping it controlled.
Your doctor may also suggest that you check your blood pressure at home if he/she thinks you may have "white coat hypertension." This occurs when the stress of being in a doctor’s office increases your blood pressure, but it's normal at home.
Ask your doctor to recommend an easy-to-use and reliable home blood pressure monitor. Make sure the size of the blood pressure cuff itself (the inflatable part that wraps around your upper arm) fits properly. If your arm is too large for the cuff, the blood pressure number may be elevated even if it’s really normal. Ask your doctor for a larger cuff to get an accurate reading.
Wrist blood pressure monitors can also be accurate when used appropriately. Follow the directions that come with the device.
No matter which type of blood pressure monitor you have, it's a good idea to take it into your doctor's office. You can compare your doctor's reading to the reading on your home monitor. This helps assure that your home blood pressure monitor is accurate.
Before you take your blood pressure, it's recommended to avoid caffeine, cigarettes, and exercise for at least 30 minutes prior to the test.
When you take your blood pressure at home, sit up straight in a chair and place both feet on the floor. Make sure your arm is supported on a table or an even surface. Place the top of the arm at the level of your heart. Ask your doctor or nurse to show you the proper way to position your arm, so you get accurate readings.
When you monitor your blood pressure at home, take it at the same time of day so the readings are more constant. Then, take several readings about one minute apart. Be sure to write down these readings in a journal.
Take your blood pressure journal with you to your doctor's office so you can talk about any changes in your blood pressure numbers. Your doctor will decide if you need blood pressure medications.
Keep in mind that even if your blood pressure is high, you probably won't have any symptoms. That's why high blood pressure is often called the "silent killer." The first symptom of untreated high blood pressure may be a heart attack, stroke, or kidney damage.