Whether you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or you are simply at risk of the condition, checking your blood pressure at home can be a good idea.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is very common among Americans. In fact, the numbers are pretty astounding—nearly half of all Americans ages 20 and older have high blood pressure. That’s more than 122 million people!
Because the condition is so common, it can be easy to disregard simply as something that can be managed. But high blood pressure, particularly when it stays elevated over a long period of time, can have dangerous effects on your health.
Blood hitting the artery walls forcefully, which is the case with hypertension, can damage the artery. The gradual damage increases your risk of many health issues, including heart disease, heart attack and stroke. Your best defense is to take steps to lower your blood pressure if it is elevated.
Knowing that you have high blood pressure is the first step. Checking your blood pressure at home can help your primary care provider keep an eye on your health.
What is the correct way to take my blood pressure at home?
You can use a simple blood pressure cuff to check your blood pressure at home. It’s pretty easy to do, but it’s important to do it correctly in order to get an accurate measurement.
Follow these basic rules when checking your blood pressure at home:
- Check your blood pressure at the same time each day since blood pressure can fluctuate somewhat throughout the day.
- Capture accurate readings by checking your blood pressure when you’re at rest. Don’t smoke, drink caffeine, or exercise in the 30 minutes before checking.
- When checking your blood pressure, sit with your feet flat on the floor and your arm on a flat surface.
- Make sure the bottom of the cuff is directly above the bend in your elbow. Follow your device’s instructions for use.
- Take multiple readings at least one minute apart.
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. If your blood pressure is regularly above that or you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, keep a diary of your blood pressure readings to share with your provider.
Are home blood pressure monitors accurate?
That’s a bit of a tricky question to answer since there are many products on the market, but in general, yes. Home blood pressure monitors can provide you with accurate readings—when they’re used as directed and using the best practices outlined above.
To choose a blood pressure monitor, start by looking at this list of validated devices that was commissioned to meet American Medical Association criteria. From there, simply search for one that meets your needs.
Choose a device that measures blood pressure in the upper arm, rather than in the wrist. Upper arm readings are more reliable for measuring blood pressure. For simplicity’s sake, you also might want to choose an automated device, but it doesn’t have to be fancy to be effective.
Want to learn more about how to keep your heart healthy and strong? Connect with our care team at Georgia Heart Institute’s Center for Cardiovascular Prevention, Metabolism and Lipids at (770) 219-0960.