How to Take Your Blood Pressure at Home

If you are like most people, you only have blood pressure readings taken the few times a year that you go to see your healthcare provider. However, these few reading might not be representative of your everyday blood pressure readings. If you get nervous when you visit your provider, for example, your blood pressure might coincidentally be elevated each time you visit your physician. The opposite might also be true. It might so happen that your blood pressure is lower than usual when you visit your healthcare provider. That is why, to get a better idea of what your blood pressure, you should take you blood pressure at home.

This way, you capture your blood pressure readings in an environment that is more typical for you. Of course, you want to make sure you take it correctly in order to get accurate readings. Otherwise, the readings might be falsely high or falsely low.

Taking a blood pressure
Photo by Hush Naidoo | Unsplash

Obtain a Suitable Blood Pressure Monitor to Take Your Blood Pressure

In order to take your blood pressure at home, you will need to have access to a blood pressure monitor. Really, a blood pressure monitor is a vital personal health monitoring device that everyone should have in their home. Fortunately, automatic blood pressure monitors are nowadays available at most pharmacies. These types of blood pressure monitors allow you to take your own blood pressure by yourself and without medical training.

There are some automatic blood pressure monitors that wrap around your wrist or finger. However, those that wrap around your arm tend to give more accurate readings. For this reason, it is preferable to get a blood pressure monitor with a cuff that wraps around your arm.

Factors to Consider when Taking Your Blood Pressure at Home (or Anywhere)

There are a number of factors you need to consider when learning how to take your blood pressure at home. For example, you should be mindful of what you consume, your position, and your activity level, during the time leading up to taking your blood pressure. After all, these are things that can affect your blood pressure reading.

Sit Properly

One very important factor to consider when taking your blood pressure is that you should take your blood pressure while you are sitting upright. This is because blood pressure is lower when you are lying down, and higher when you are standing up.

Following the standard of taking your blood pressure while sitting up upright will make your blood pressure readings more comparable and accurate. It is also the position at which your blood pressure will generally be taken when you are in a healthcare setting.

Be Rested

In addition to being in a sitting position, you should make

In addition to being in a sitting position, you should make sure that you have been resting in a sitting position for at least 5 minutes prior to taking your blood pressure. This is to ensure that you don’t get a falsely elevated reading.

After all, if you were running around, or having an animated conversation with someone, your blood pressure will likely be more elevated than if you had been sitting down for a few minutes. And if you were just lying down, it is possible for your blood pressure to lower than if you had been sitting down for a few minutes.  So the cost of not giving your time to settle down before taking your blood pressure would be a likely be a reading unrepresentative of your resting blood pressure.

Be rested
Photo by GDJ | Pixabay

Avoid Substances that Might Affect Your Pressure

For similar reasons, before taking your blood pressure, you should avoid drinking coffee, smoking, or consuming other substances that will alter your blood pressure. Food, beverages, and other substances can increase or decrease your blood pressure readings. Generally, it is best to avoid these as 30 minutes prior to taking your blood pressure.

Correctly Position Your Arms and Legs

You should not be contracting your muscles (e.g., making a fist), nor crossing your arms or legs when you take you blood pressure. Instead, your legs and arms, and your body, should be rested. The reason, again, is that crossing your extremities, or contracting your muscles, will cause your blood pressure reading elevated compared to what it would be in the resting state.

You might be interested in: Personal Health Record Benefits – Take Charge

In fact, for your blood pressure to be most accurate, the arm on which you will take your blood pressure should be rested on a table so that it is about at the same level as your heart. A heart reading taking above the heart level would lead to a lower blood pressure. One taken below the heart level would lead to a higher blood pressure.

Choose an Arm on Which to Take Your Blood Pressure

To take your blood pressure, you only need to do so in only one arm, not both. And because you likely want to trend your blood pressure over time, it is best try to take you blood pressure in the same arm each time.

However, it is a good idea to take your blood pressure in both arms from time to time to see if there is any difference in blood pressure. The blood pressure should be around the same on both arms.

Do not that, if you have an implant in one of your arms (for example a fistula for hemodialysis), you should only use the other arm to take your blood pressure.

Cuff Size

When taking your blood pressure at home, you also want to make sure that you have an appropriate cuff size. Most blood pressure monitors come with a cuff that fits the average adult. If you are obese or very petite, however, you might need to buy a special cuff. Otherwise, the readings will not be accurate.

If you are using a cuff that is too small, the readings will be falsely high. On the other hand, if you use a blood pressure cuff that is too large, the readings will be falsely low.

A rule of thumb is that, when the cuff is applied, it should feel snug. However, you should have enough room to fit two fingers between the blood pressure cuff and your arm.

Correct blood pressure cuff selection
Photo by Antonio_Corigliano | Pixabay

Cuff Position

When securing the cuff on your arm, you want to make sure to position the cuff in a manner that the tube attached to cuff is on the edge of the cuff closest to the inside bend of your elbow. The tube should be pointing towards your hand once you have placed the cuff. You don’t want this tube to be on the edge closest to your shoulder.

You might be interested in: Personal Health Monitoring Devices to Own

Furthermore, you want to make sure that this tube is positioned in the middle of the inside bend of your elbow. It should not be on the sides of the arm. Neither should it be on the elbow side of the arm.

Be Quiet

Make sure you don’t speak when your blood pressure is Make sure you don’t speak or make noises when your blood pressure is being taken. You also want to make sure to maintain a normal breathing pattern. Sometimes the blood pressure cuff inflates to a degree that feels a bit uncomfortable. Do your best to not wince, or hold your breath. Doing so could affect the accuracy of your blood pressure reading.

Be Aware of the Time of Day

Blood pressure readings will vary during trough out the day. For that reason, it is important to document what time you took your blood pressure readings. It is good to take your blood pressure reading to at different times of the day to understand how your blood pressure varies throughout the day. However, when trying to observe changes over time, you should compare readings taking around the same time of day for the comparison to be most accurate. You might also want to average your readings across the day as it more representative of your general blood pressure than you blood pressure at a specific time of day.

Interpreting Your Blood Pressure Readings

Now that you know how to take your blood pressure, it is also good to have a general understanding of your reading.

A blood pressure reading usually consists of two numbers. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure. If the top number is 115 and the bottom number is 80, you would say that your blood pressure is “115 over 80.” The units are in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

The top number tells you the pressure of your arteries as the lower muscles of your heart (i.e, the ventricles) contract. If are an adult and the top number is above 90 but below 120, your blood pressure is considered normal.

The bottom tells you the pressure of your arteries as the lower muscles of your heart relax to allow blood to come into the heart. For adults, a normal values is usually considered a number above 60 but below 80.

Pulse Pressure

The difference between the top and the bottom number of the blood pressure is known as the pulse pressure. It usually ranges between 40 and 60. If your pulse pressure is persistently above or below this, it is an indicator that you might have an underlying cardiac condition. You might want to discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Difference in Blood Pressure Readings between Arms

You might want to take your blood pressure on both arms and see if there is a difference. A difference by a few points might not be anything to be concerned about. However, if the difference is greater than 10 mmHg more than once, it would be best to discuss this with your healthcare provider.

Readings are Relative

Despite the generally normal values stated above, a normal blood pressure reading for you at a particular time will depend on many different factors. Particularly, sudden changes in heart pressure can be a signal that you are experiencing a situation that needs attention.

It is nonetheless good to have a general idea of what is the expected blood pressure reading for the average adult. It gives you a number to aim for over the long run.

If your blood pressure is regularly high, you should strive to improve your eating and exercise habits. You should also strive to control any medical conditions that might be causing your blood pressure to be high. Your goal should be to lower your blood pressure to “normal” levels over time.

You might be interested in: How to Organize an Office Space

If your blood pressure is regularly low, you should make sure that you are well hydrated. Also strive to take care of any medical conditions or medication combinations that might be contributing to the low readings. Your goal should also be for your readings to reach normal levels over time.

Heart pumps blood
Photo by Robina Weermeijer | Unsplash

Keep a Record of Your Home Blood Pressures

While you might not need to take it every day, you should take it frequently enough to get a good idea of what your blood pressure. Of course, everyone’s blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day. So the averages of your readings throughout the day will give you a good idea of where your blood pressure usually falls.

Even though it is not necessary to take your blood pressure each day, you also want to take it frequently enough to catch changes in your blood pressure. You may inform your healthcare provider of any trends you may be noticing.

As mentioned earlier, it is possible that your blood pressure might be different in the healthcare provider’s office. So your personal blood pressure readings would be a valuable piece of information for your healthcare provider to take into account.

Also, you should take your blood pressure when you feel “off.” It will give you and your healthcare provider some insight in terms of why you felt unusual.

In any case, it is a good idea to make notes of anything that might have affected your blood pressure reading. This includes the time of day that it was taken. It also includes any activities or circumstances that might have affected the reading.

Ask Your Healthcare Provider to Verify How You Take Your Blood Pressure at Home

A blood pressure monitor will give you a reading, even though you are not taking your blood pressure correctly. To ensure that you are taking your blood pressure correctly, you may want to take your blood pressure monitor when you visit your healthcare provider. Ask them to assess whether you are taking you blood pressure correctly.

Self blood pressure monitoring
Photo by geraldoswald62 | Pixabay

Conclusion

Learning how to take your blood pressure at home take some practice. However, it is something that can help you

Learning how to take your blood pressure at home take some practice. However, it is something that can help you become more educated about the state of your health. You can maintain a personal health record with this information. In this way, you have a record that you can easily share with your healthcare provider and loved ones. Doing so can help you and your healthcare provider make better decisions about your health.

If you don’t already have a blood pressure monitor, make sure to get one. When doing so, remember that the ones with a cuff that wraps around the arm are the most accurate.

You might also be interested in learning about other personal health monitoring devices that are useful to have at home. Or stop by the Wellness Tools page to links to where you can purchase these devices.


Subscribe – Get Notified of New Posts via Email!

* indicates required

Sharing is Caring

If you enjoyed this post, please share it with your friends on social media.

How to take your blood pressure at home