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Home Blood Pressure Test

How It Is Done continued...

Also record your daily activities, such as the time you take medicine or if you feel upset or feel stressed. Your records may help explain changes in your blood pressure readings and help your doctor adjust your medicines.

Automatic blood pressure monitors

Follow the instructions for your monitor. When you press the start button, the cuff will inflate automatically. The cuff will then deflate and the numbers on the screen will begin to drop. When the measurement is complete, your monitor displays your blood pressure and pulse rate.

Manual blood pressure monitors

A large artery (called the brachial artery) is located slightly above the inside of your elbow. You can check its location by feeling for a pulse in the artery with the fingers of your other hand.

If you are using a stethoscope, place the earpieces in your ears and the bell of the stethoscope over the artery, just below the cuff. The stethoscope should not rub on the cuff or your clothing, since this may cause noises that can make your pulse hard to hear. If you are using a cuff with a built-in stethoscope bell, be sure the part of the cuff with the stethoscope is positioned just over the artery. The accuracy of a blood pressure recording depends on the correct positioning of the stethoscope over the artery. You may want to have another person who can use a stethoscope properly help you take your blood pressure.

Close the valve on the rubber inflating bulb. Squeeze the bulb rapidly with your opposite hand to inflate the cuff until the dial or column of mercury reads about 30 mm Hg higher than your usual systolic pressure. (If you don't know your usual pressure, inflate the cuff to 210 mm Hg or until the pulse at your wrist disappears.) The pressure in the cuff will stop all blood flow within the artery temporarily.

Now open the pressure valve just slightly by twisting or pressing the valve on the bulb. The pressure should fall slowly at about 2 to 3 mm Hg per second. Some blood pressure devices have a valve that automatically controls this rate. As you watch the pressure slowly fall, note the level on the dial at which you first start to hear a pulsing or tapping sound through the stethoscope. The sound is caused by the blood starting to move through the closed artery. This is your systolic blood pressure. If you have trouble hearing the start of your pulse through the stethoscope, you can check your systolic blood pressure by noting the level on the dial when you are able to feel the pulse at your wrist once again.

Continue letting the air out slowly. The sounds will become muffled and will finally disappear. Note the pressure when the sounds completely disappear. This is your diastolic blood pressure. Finally, let out all the remaining air to relieve the pressure on your arm.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 29, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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