How to Monitor Blood Pressure

Two Parts:Preparing to TestRunning the Test and Recording Results

Your blood pressure is an indicator of how much work your body is doing to pump the blood that feeds your organs.[1] A person can have blood pressure that runs from low, called hypotension, to normal, to high, which is called hypertension.[2] Having either low or high blood pressure can lead to different medical conditions such as heart disease or diminished brain function.[3] By monitoring your blood pressure on a regular basis and managing it, you may be able to keep your levels in check and prevent other conditions or death.

Part 1
Preparing to Test

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    Purchase a blood pressure monitor. If you are checking your blood pressure at home, purchase an automatic cuff-style monitor. This can help give you the most accurate readings of your pressure in addition to being more simple to use than aneroid sphygmomanometers, which is the technical name of hand-employed blood pressure monitors.[4]
    • A digital or automatic monitor has a cuff that inflates at the push of a button and requires no real work from you.[5] This is probably your easiest option if you are monitoring your blood pressure from home.
    • Choose a monitor that is validated and approved by an international organization such as the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, the British Hypertension Society and the International Protocol for the Validation of Automated BP Measuring Devices.[6]
    • Make sure the monitor is properly calibrated — talk to your doctor or a medical supply store about calibration.
    • If you have special needs, such as being elderly or pregnant, make sure to choose a monitor specifically suited to your purposes.[7]
    • Make sure the cuff fits your arm by measuring the width around your bicep.[8] Most companies make different sizes, which will help you get the most accurate reading possible.[9] Too small of a cuff can cause false elevated readings, too large of a cuff can give false low blood pressure readings.
    • You can buy blood pressure monitors at many pharmacies and most medical supply stores. Your insurance company may cover the cost if you’re using the device to manage a medical condition. Make sure you can return or exchange if the apparatus doesn't work or malfunctions.
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    Set up to check your blood pressure. There are many factors that can affect your blood pressure reading. Preparing yourself for your monitoring test can give the most accurate readings.[10] In preparation for your test:
    • Avoid testing right after you wake up.
    • Avoid eating or drinking anything for 30 minutes before testing.
    • Avoid caffeine and tobacco for 30 minutes before testing.
    • Avoid exercising for 30 minutes before testing, even if it’s light walking.
    • Empty your bladder.[11]
    • Make sure to read the device instructions before you do any testing.
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    Position yourself properly. Before and during the test, it’s important that you position your body and arm properly. Sitting quietly and in a supported, upright position can help you get the most accurate reading.[12]
    • Sit down and relax for at least 30 minutes before you test your pressure.[13]
    • Do your best to not move or talk during the actual testing.[14]
    • Sit with your back straight and supported, such as in a dining room chair. Keep your feet flat on the floor and don’t cross your legs.[15]
    • Support your bare arm on a table, desk, or the arm of a chair. Your arm should rest at the level of your heart, for which you might need a pillow or cushion to prop it up.[16]
    • The cuff should be directly above the eye, or crook, of your elbow.[17]

Part 2
Running the Test and Recording Results

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    Measure at the same time every day. Run the blood pressure monitoring test(s) at the exact same time every day. This can give you the most accurate reading and help you identify potential problems.[18]
    • You may want to measure in the mornings and evenings when you are most relaxed. Your doctor may also recommend optimal times for you to run the test.
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    Inflate the cuff. Once you’ve made the necessary preparations and sat quietly for a while, you can turn on the machine to begin testing. You may need to hit a specific button to inflate the cuff, which you should do as calmly as possible to minimize the risk of elevating your pressure.[19]
    • If the cuff becomes uncomfortable or too tight at any juncture, or if you get lightheaded, turn off the machine or engage the emergency release button.
    • Continue to remain still while the cuff is inflating.[20]
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    Remain calm. Once you inflate the cuff, the test should begin. It’s important that you remain as still and calm as possible. This can minimize the risk of getting an inaccurate reading.[21]
    • Don’t move or talk while the monitoring is testing if you can avoid it.[22]
    • Wait until the testing stops and the cuff deflates or the monitor displays your results.
    • Don't forget to breathe and don't take deep breaths — just breathe as you normally would.
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    Remove the cuff. Some digital monitors will automatically deflate the cuff when they're finished testing, while others may require you to press a button. Once the testing is complete and the air is deflated from the cuff, remove your arm.[23]
    • You may feel slightly lightheaded when you remove the cuff. This should subside quickly.
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    Record your results. It’s important to accurately record your test results as soon as you are able after the monitoring. Record all relevant data in a notebook, on a computer, or see if your device will automatically record your results. These results can help identify trends in your pressure and help your doctor correctly diagnose any issues.[24]
    • Note what your blood pressure reading is along with the time and date you took the test. For example, “January 5, 2016 at 10:00am 120/80.”
    • The 120/80 would be whatever pressure the test measured. The top number represents your systolic pressure, which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number represents your diastolic pressure, which measures pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.[25]
    • A normal reading is a systolic number between 110 and 120. A normal reading for the diastolic number is lower than 80.[26]
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    Take additional readings. In order to get the most accurate readings and picture of your blood pressure, take one or two additional readings after the first test. Make sure to record the results of these tests as well.[27]
    • Wait one to two minutes in between tests to get additional readings.
    • Make sure to follow the same procedure for additional tests that you did with the rest. Sit still and remain calm as much as possible.[28]
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    Consult your doctor. If you notice elevated or low blood pressure over a couple of readings, contact your doctor as soon as possible. This can help minimize the risk of developing conditions that can harm your heart and brain.[29]
    • Write down any symptoms that may be occurring with your high or low blood pressure and report these to your doctor. Headaches with elevated blood pressure can indicated potential problems. Dizziness with standing or changing positions can give physicians clues toward a diagnosis.
    • In the event that your systolic pressure rises above 180 or your diastolic above 110, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.[30]
    • Contact your doctor at any point if you have questions or are unsure of anything.[31]

Sources and Citations

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Article Info

Categories: Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure