What Is the Proper Way to Take Your Blood Pressure?

Reviewed on 6/2/2021

Blood pressure reading
If you want to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis, you can do so at home easily using an automated or digital blood pressure machine. Here’s how to make sure your at-home reading is accurate.

If you want to monitor your blood pressure on a regular basis, you can do so at home easily using an automated or digital blood pressure machine. You should always take any blood pressure medications at least 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.

To accurately measure your blood pressure at home:

  • Place the cuff on your upper arm.
  • Relax your arm and place it on the arm of the chair or a table.
  • Press the button on the blood pressure machine to inflate the cuff and sit calmly without talking (talking can raise the reading).
  • Jot down the result.
  • After a minute, take a second blood pressure reading and jot down that reading as well. 
  • Repeat this twice a day for a week and keep a diary of the blood pressure readings.

Tips to make sure your at-home blood pressure reading is accurate

Tips to keep in mind while measuring your resting blood pressure at home include the following:

  • Check the device’s accuracy. Before using a monitor for the first time, have your doctor check its accuracy against the office model. Also, let your doctor oversee you once while using the device to make sure you’re using it properly. If the device is dropped or damaged, have it checked before using it again.
  • Measure your blood pressure twice daily. The first measurement should be in the morning before eating or taking any medications, and the second in the evening. While measuring, take 2-3 readings to make sure the results are accurate. Your doctor may also recommend taking your blood pressure at the same time each day.
  • Don’t measure your blood pressure right after waking up. If you tend to work out in the morning, measure your blood pressure beforehand.
  • Avoid food, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol for 30 minutes before taking a measurement.
  • Go to the bathroom beforehand, since a full bladder can elevate your blood pressure slightly.
  • Before using the device, sit quietly for about 5 minutes in a comfortable position with your legs and ankles uncrossed and your back well-supported.
  • Stay calm, avoid thinking about stressful things, and don’t talk to anyone while your blood pressure is being measured.
  • Always use the same arm, and make sure it is positioned properly. Rest your arm at the level of your heart. Place a pillow or cushion underneath it to elevate it high enough, if required.
  • Place the cuff on bare skin, not over clothing. Rolling up a sleeve until it tightens around the arm can result in an inaccurate reading.
  • Wait for 1-3 minutes after the first reading, and then take another to check its accuracy.

Morning and evening are good times to measure your blood pressure. Remember, blood pressure varies throughout the day, and readings are often a little higher in the morning. Also, your blood pressure may be slightly lower at home than in a medical office, with the difference typically being around 5 points.

Don’t be alarmed if you get an unexpectedly high reading. One high reading is usually nothing to worry about. Measure your blood pressure again at another time. If your blood pressure is consistently high or abnormal, discuss it with your doctor. 

How are blood pressure levels categorized?

There are four blood pressure categories:

  • Normal blood pressureSystolic below 120 and diastolic below 80 mm Hg
  • Prehypertension: Systolic between 120-139 and diastolic between 80-89 mm Hg
  • Stage I hypertension: Systolic between 140-159 and diastolic between 90-99 mm Hg
  • Stage II hypertension: Systolic above 160 and diastolic above 100 mm Hg

Monitoring your blood pressure levels can help you prevent or delay the onset of high blood pressure and related health problems. If you notice that your blood pressure readings are getting higher, talk to your doctor. They can help you set goals and recommend lifestyle changes that can help you get the numbers back down and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

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References
WebMD. Checking Your Blood Pressure. https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/monitoring-blood-pressure

American Medical Association. 7 Simple Tips to Get An Accurate Blood Pressure Measurement. https://www.heart.org/-/media/files/professional/million-hearts/success-stories/7-simple-tips-to-get-accurate-blood-pressure-ucm_493556.pdf

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