Mistakes to Avoid When Taking Your Blood Pressure at Home

Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is very common in the U.S. and typically has no symptoms. If you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension, it’s strongly recommended that you monitor your blood pressure at home, a task which is fairly easy to accomplish if you follow some basic guidelines.

Home monitoring of blood pressure helps healthcare providers determine whether treatments are working. But everyone can benefit from this practice. 

"A person may feel perfectly fine, yet have dangerously elevated blood pressure,” explains Ian Del Conde, M.D., a cardiologist and vascular medicine specialist at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute. “The only way to know that one's blood pressure is normal is by measuring it."

Ian Del Conde, M.D., a cardiologist and vascular medicine specialist at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute.

Home monitoring is not a substitute for regular visits to your physician. If you have been prescribed medication to lower your blood pressure, don’t stop taking your medication without consulting your doctor, even if your readings are in the normal range.

Having hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the U.S. Nearly half of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, defined as a systolic blood pressure greater than 130 mmHg (the top number) or a diastolic blood pressure greater than 80 mmHg.

Best Type of Blood Pressure Monitor

Wrist and finger monitors are not recommended because they yield less reliable readings, the American Heart Association states. If you are unsure, ask your doctor for advice on the right type of blood pressure monitoring device. Do not rely on a smartphone app that claims to directly take your blood pressure reading.

Physicians recommend opting for a digital monitor with an arm cuff over a manual one. “Automated electronic machines using an upper arm cuff are usually accurate,” says Dr. Del Conde. “If there is any question about their accuracy, they can be validated against a blood pressure machine at a doctor’s office.”

Once you’ve purchased a BP monitor, bring it to your next doctor appointment. Your physician can check to see that you are using it correctly and getting the same results as the monitor in the office. The width of the monitor’s cuff should be able to wrap three-quarters of the distance around the arm.

How to Use a Blood Pressure Monitor

Here are key tips for using your blood pressure monitor properly at home:

Be still and calm (no caffeine or exercising before taking BP). That means don’t smoke, drink caffeinated beverages or exercise within 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.

Empty your bladder and ensure at least 5 minutes of quiet rest before measurements.

Sit properly with your back straight and supported. Best option is a chair, rather than a sofa. Your feet should be flat on the floor and your legs should not be crossed. Your arm should be supported on a flat surface (such as a table) with the upper arm at heart level. Make sure the bottom of the cuff is placed directly above the bend of the elbow. Check your monitor’s instructions for an illustration or have your healthcare provider show you how.

Measure at the same time every day. It’s important to take the readings at the same time each day, even if you’re taking your blood pressure more than once a day as is recommended. Ideally, take your readings daily beginning two weeks after a change in treatment and during the week before your next appointment.

Take multiple readings throughout the day, and record the results. Each time you measure, take two or three readings one minute apart and record the results. If your monitor has built-in memory to store your readings, take it with you to your appointments. Some monitors may also allow you to upload your readings to a secure website after you register your profile.

Don’t take the measurement over clothes. The cuff must be fitted over your arm, touching the skin.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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