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The easiest way to take your blood pressure by yourself at home is to buy an automated digital blood pressure monitor. Your blood pressure is easy to read on these automatic blood pressure monitors as the numbers flash on a small screen.
Important tips on digital automatic blood pressure devices:
- Check your digital BP device with your physician or nurse to make sure it is accurate.
- All digital BP equipment comes with instructions. Read them carefully before starting to take your blood pressure.
- Store the BP device at room temperature. Extreme heat or cold can cause it to give wrong readings.
Although, automatic home blood pressure monitors are simple to use, to help ensure an accurate reading of your blood pressure it is important to follow these steps.
There are many things that can temporarily raise your blood pressure. When taking your blood pressure (BP) at home, you should know that:
- BP is often much lower when you are asleep. It goes up as soon as you wake up and become more active.
- Talking, walking or eating can make BP go up.
- Sudden stress or pain can cause BP to rise in a few seconds.
- Exercising hard or getting excited can raise BP.
- BP increases when you are uneasy or fearful (like when you go to the physician – often call the white coat syndrome or white coat hypertension).
- Smoking and consuming caffeine within 30 minutes of taking your blood pressure can alter your readings.
- Before you take your blood pressure, use the restroom. Your BP reading can be impacted by a full bladder.
- Take your blood pressure every day at around the same time and in the same surroundings. Never check your blood pressure after an activity.
Wear comfortable clothes and sit down in a comfortable chair with a desk or a table in front of you (a dining table is ideal). Sit with your back straight and your back supported if possible, put both your feet flat on the floor (don’t cross your legs) and put your arm on the table in front of you. Now rest for five to 10 minutes.
2. Put On The Cuff
Always use the same arm to measure your blood pressure. Studies have shown that a difference of up to 5 mmHg in systolic blood pressure (the first number in a blood pressure reading) between arms is quite common. The easiest is to use your non-dominant arm (if you’re right handed use your left arm and vice versa).
Put on the cuff according to the instructions that came with your blood pressure monitor, usually an inch above the elbow. Often they will include special instructions on the direction and placement of the cuff e.g. make sure the tubing is on the inside of your elbow. Make sure you wrap the blood pressure cuff around your bare arm so roll up your sleeve. However if your rolled up sleeve squeezes your arm just take off your shirt instead. The cuff should fit snugly but with enough room so that one finger can be slipped under the cuff. Wrap the cuff evenly. Rest your elbow and lower arm on a flat surface so that your upper arm is level with your heart. Stay still.
3. Start The Measurement
Following the instructions of your blood pressure monitor, start taking the measurement. During the measurement make sure you stay still and silent. Moving or talking can influence your measurement.
What happens during the measurement:
When using an automatic blood pressure monitor the following will happen during the measurement:
- The cuff will inflate. This will slightly squeeze your arm and could be a little bit uncomfortable. If it becomes really uncomfortable press the on/off button to stop the inflation.
- The cuff will now slowly deflate. This is when the actual measurement is taking place.
- When the reading is complete the cuff will completely deflate.
- The machine will display your systolic and diastolic pressures on the screen.
4. Record The Reading
To make sure you get an accurate reading of your blood pressure it is important to follow these steps.
Keep these in mind when taking your blood pressure
- Taking your blood pressure over clothes or rolling a shirt or jacket up over the upper arm, can result in false or high readings.
- Many blood pressure monitors only have one cuff size available. However, cuffs must be large enough to get a correct reading. Measure the circumference around the middle of your upper arm. If it is more than about 13 inches, you will most likely need a large size cuff rather than a standard size cuff.
- The height at which your arm is resting may have an impact on the blood pressure reading. Be sure to maintain the arm with the blood pressure cuff at or near heart level. To do this, prop the arm up on a table, the edge of a couch, etc.
- You should take special care when storing your blood pressure equipment. Remove the batteries before storing, and check that the tubing is not twisted. Keep your equipment out of the heat and the dust. Look for leaks or cracks in rubber tubing.
- Make sure your blood pressure monitor is accurate by having it checked when you first buy it and then at least once a year after that. Your physician’s office or a neighboring fire station that offers this service can check it for you.
- Do not panic if you get an unexpected high or low reading. A one-off high or low reading is normally nothing to worry about. Just measure your blood pressure again a bit later.
- Do not take your blood pressure too often. This may cause you to become stressed or worried about small changes in your results. These worries can then be a cause for a higher blood pressure.
- Take multiple readings with a couple of minutes between them. Then take the average of the readings.
- Take your blood pressure at the same time of the day.