9 Q&As About Monitoring Blood Pressure at Home
Here are some tips for checking your blood pressure at home.
During a visit to your doctor, you may be asked to monitor your blood pressure at home. Why? Some reasons include:
- You have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
- Your doctor is asking you to obtain blood pressure measurements outside of the office to confirm the diagnosis of hypertension.
- The doctor determines you are at risk for high blood pressure.
- Your doctor is concerned that you have what is called white-coat hypertension. This is when your blood pressure is elevated only in the doctor’s office.
The questions and answers below may be helpful to understand monitoring at home.
- Why might it be useful to monitor my blood pressure at home?
Most people do not visit their clinic daily or even weekly, so your doctor may want you to check your own blood pressure to find out if it is consistently high — 140 over 90 or higher. This may help determine if you have high blood pressure, or hypertension, a condition that requires careful long-term management to help avoid serious complications. Hypertension means the blood in your arteries could be pushing with too much force.
When untreated, high blood pressure can lead to a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and other problems. People with high blood pressure rarely have symptoms, so blood pressure readings help determine a diagnosis. If you are being treated for high blood pressure, home monitoring allows your doctor to gauge whether treatments are effective.
- Are there some people for whom home monitoring may be especially useful? Yes. Your doctor may recommend home monitoring if:
- You are just starting treatment, to see how medications are working.
- You are pregnant. Pregnancy-related high blood pressure, or preeclampsia, can arise quickly and become dangerous.
- You have a condition that needs careful blood pressure monitoring like heart disease, diabetes or kidney disease.
- You are an older adult. White-coat hypertension increases with age.
- Where can I buy a home blood pressure monitor?
Home monitors can be purchased without a prescription at pharmacies, discount chain stores and other locations. Your doctor, nurse, or a pharmacist can answer questions about how to use the device.
- How do I know what type of home blood pressure monitor is best for me?
Your doctor or pharmacist can help you choose. There are three types of home blood pressure monitors, and they vary in ease of use and cost. An automatic monitor works by placing the cuff on your arm and then pushing a button on the gauge. The cuff inflates on its own and the gauge gives a digital reading. With a semi-automatic monitor, you inflate the cuff by squeezing on a rubber bulb. When you deflate it, the machine displays a digital reading. A manual monitor uses a stethoscope, allowing you to listen to the sounds of your blood flowing and register the reading yourself. With any monitor, make sure the cuff fits your upper arm. If it is too large or too small for your upper arm, it may not give a correct reading.
- Is there anything I should look for before I buy?
If possible, the monitor should be one that meets international standards. If you are pregnant, elderly or it is for a child, see if the particular monitor is appropriate for you. Make sure the cuff fits your arm. Also check that the results display is large enough for you to clearly see.
- How can I be sure I am using my monitor correctly?
Take your monitor to your doctor’s office to have it calibrated and for advice on how to use it properly. Carefully read the instructions on the monitor’s package.
- How can I help ensure accurate readings?
Wait 30 minutes after smoking, drinking caffeine or exercising before taking your blood pressure. Measure it at the same time or times each day. Sit still with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, legs uncrossed, and with your arm supported on a flat surface at heart level. Take each measurement two or three times, a minute apart, and write down all the readings.
- How often should I check my blood pressure?
Your doctor will suggest when and how often to measure your blood pressure.
- Do I still need to go to my doctor’s office?
Yes. Taking your blood pressure at home is not a substitute for your clinic visits. Your doctor will need to continue to monitor your blood pressure and make adjustments to your plan of care as needed. Your health care providers also can help you quit smoking, eat a smart diet, lose weight and exercise — all good steps toward maintaining a healthy blood pressure.
By Emily Gurnon, Contributing Writer
Agency for Healthcare Quality and Research. Measuring your blood pressure at home: A review of the research for adults. Accessed: October 16, 2015.
American Heart Association. Home blood pressure monitoring. Accessed: October 16, 2015.
Mayo Clinic. Get the most out of home blood pressure monitoring. Accessed: October 16, 2015.
Last Updated: October 16, 2015