How to Take Blood Pressure at Home [Step by Step]

Do you know how to take your blood pressure at home correctly? I’m Dr. Frita I’m a medical doctor and board-certified kidney and high blood pressure specialist, and today I’m giving you a step-by-step guide. Here’s the issue. Most people get their blood pressure checked at the doctor’s office. But if you’re anything like my patients, then by the time you get to the office, you’re already stressed out by traffic and maybe even a little road rage.

You’re probably annoyed by the overcrowded parking deck and the slow-moving valet. And then you’re anxious about what I, the doctor, am about to tell you about your health and your whole life. This causes elevated blood pressure in the office that might not be reflective of your true blood pressure numbers. This is why it’s important to monitor your blood pressure at home. But if you’re going to do it at home, you have to do it the right way.

 

 

You must have the right blood pressure cuff and the right body positioning. You must also understand the dos and don’ts. So that’s what we’re going to talk about today. I’m giving you a step-by-step guide on one of the most frequently asked questions I hear in my office, “how can I check blood pressure at home correctly?” I’m sharing some valuable heart health information in this article, so please be sure to share this article and subscribe to my YouTube channel if you have not done so already.

 

Be sure to download your copy of my book. It’s called “Under Pressure: A Guide To Controlling High Blood Pressure” It’s your step-by-step guide on how to control high blood pressure. This book is packed with valuable tools, guidelines, and information to help you to control high blood pressure. Click here to get your copy today.

 

5 Mistakes To AVOID When Taking Your Blood Pressure At Home

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a leading cause of heart disease, heart attack, strokes, and kidney disease. And so maintaining a good blood pressure is key for your health and your overall quality of life.  In order to get accurate blood pressure readings, you must make sure that you prepare yourself. You must have the right environment and the right state of mind. Here are 5 do’s and don’ts.

1.  Avoid caffeine, nicotine, smoking, and exercise within 30 minutes of taking your blood pressure. That can cause a false elevation.

2.  Don’t sit and take your blood pressure reading in the wrong sitting position. Make sure that you’re in the proper position. You want to sit in a chair that has back support, like a dining room chair, and you want your feet to be flat on the ground and your ankles to be uncrossed. If your ankles are crossed, this could cause a falsely elevated blood pressure scan.

 

how can you check blood pressure at home

 

3.  Have an empty bladder before taking your blood pressure. Yes, you need to use the restroom before you take your blood pressure because a full bladder can falsely elevate your blood pressure.

4.  Make sure that the arm where the blood pressure cuff is being placed is at the level of the heart. If the blood pressure cuff is down below the heart, that can cause a falsely elevated blood pressure reading. And then if the arm with the blood pressure cuff is above the heart, that can cause a falsely low blood pressure scan.

5. Don’t rush and take your blood pressure reading. You want to sit and wait for at least five minutes before you actually take the blood pressure. Do slow deep breathing. You can breathe in for four seconds, hold it, then breathe out for four seconds. This causes the heart rate to slow down, and the blood vessels to dilate, and it helps to clear the mind before taking your blood pressure.

 

How To Choose The Right Blood Pressure Cuff

 

how to choose the right blood pressure cuff

 

It’s important that you have the proper blood pressure cuff and it is recommended that you use an upper arm cuff.  Yes, there are other cuffs that are available (wrist cuffs and thigh cuffs). Consult with your physician because there may be certain restrictions that you have. However, it is recommended to use an upper arm cuff if possible.

The blood pressure cuff that I will be using for this demonstration is the Omron brand, but there are many, many good blood pressure cuffs. If you go to the website validatebp.org, you’ll get some of the tried and true blood pressure cuffs that have been shown to be accurate.

 

Blood Pressure Cuff Sizing

Before you even purchase your blood pressure cuff, you need to make sure it’s the right size. Because if the blood pressure cuff is too small, it will give you falsely elevated blood pressure readings. And if the blood pressure cuff is too loose, it will give you falsely low blood pressure readings. So how do you know the cuff size? Well, they tell you, quite honestly. So the cuff that I am using for my arm is 9 to 17 inches in circumference. So what does that mean? It means that if you take a tape measure and measure around your arm muscles, you see what the circumference is after that measurement.  If your arm circumference is between 9 and 17 inches, then you would be able to use this cuff that I have.

 

blood pressure cuff sizing

 

So before you even purchase the cuff, take a look and see if the size is the correct size for your arm circumference. For me, my arm is between 9 and 17 inches. That’s what this cuff is, so I know I have the right cuff. You also really need to read the instructions on the blood pressure cuff because it will tell you the proper positioning. For this cuff, it needs to be placed about a half an inch above the bend of the elbow. These instructions will vary from cuff to cuff. There are some companies that will tell you that they want it to be one inch above the bend of the elbow. Some have a range, of 0.8 to 1.2 inches. So please carefully read the instructions on your blood pressure cuff so that you know.

When you’re checking your blood pressure at home, it is important that you put the blood pressure cuff on the bare skin of your arm. Don’t take it through a jacket, not even through thin material.

My blood pressure cuff is placed about a half an inch above the bend of my elbow. And according to my instructions, this tubing needs to be right in the center of my arm.  Again, the instructions are very clear and it will vary depending on your particular blood pressure cuff. I have it nice and snug. I know it fits my arm, and so now I’m ready to press the button and take my blood pressure.

How to Take Blood Pressure at Home

Remember, before pressing the button to start, you should have been sitting here for five minutes, legs uncrossed, and with the proper positioning, all of those things we discussed above. Also, be sure to turn the blood pressure monitor on. Again, make sure that your arm is at the level of the heart, so you want to rest it on a table or rest it on the desktop. When you’re checking your blood pressure, make sure that you’re quiet. There’s no talking. You need a calm environment.

You don’t want barking dogs, you don’t want children running around screaming. You don’t want the news and all kinds of stress from a television playing in the background. You don’t want the alarm going off.  Try not to think about anything. Create a calm environment to give you the most accurate blood pressure measurement.

Here’s the other thing, be sure to take your blood pressure scan more than once. So if your doctor has asked you to keep a blood pressure log to monitor your blood pressure numbers at home for example, consult with your doctor or nephrologist, but it’s often a good idea to take your blood pressure multiple times in a day. At least twice a day. In the morning, in the evening, or afternoon, or maybe even three times a day.

 

how can i check blood pressure at home

 

And at each setting, take the pressure more than once. Take it two or three times in the morning, preferably before you take your blood pressure meds. And then average out which blood pressure is the most accurate. Calculate the average to estimate the most likely blood pressure numbers.

Same thing in the evening. Check your blood pressure, check it again, wait some time, five minutes or so, check it again, and average it out to see what the blood pressure is. You also want to check your pulse. The reason that you want to check your pulse or heart rate, is because sometimes the medications your doctor may prescribe will depend on the heart rate because there are certain blood pressure medications, like beta blockers, that have the side effect of slowing the heart rate down. And there are different ones that could speed the heart rate up.

So make sure you record your blood pressure numbers and your heart rate. It’s important to have the proper blood pressure numbers so your physician knows how to adjust your medications, your diet, or lifestyle recommendations.

 

Would you like to have a one-on-one conversation with me to discuss your blood pressure specifically or other medical concerns you may have? Would you like my undivided attention as we discuss your specific medical journey? If so, you are in luck because I offer a concierge telehealth service where you can get my direct input on your health concerns. Be sure to click this link to learn more.

 

What Do The Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?

Now let’s talk about what the numbers that you get on your blood pressure monitor actually mean.

Normal blood pressure is when that top number, systolic pressure is less than 120, and less than 80 for the diastolic number or bottom number. Consult with your physician on what blood pressure is right for you.

If your blood pressure is 130 over 80 or greater, you have hypertension. So that’s if that top number, that systolic, is 130 or greater, or if that bottom number, the diastolic, is 80 or greater.

 

high blood pressure chart

 

Maintaining good blood pressure is critical for your health, and it’s doable if you manage your blood pressure at home. It’s also doable if you make sure that you have healthy habits on a day-to-day basis. Be sure to download your free copy of my healthy habits guide. It will lead to better health and a better you.

Now that you have these pearls of knowledge on how to take blood pressure at home correctly, I hope you run out and get the proper blood pressure cuff. Make sure it’s the right size. Get yourself in the right environment when you’re taking your blood pressure. Make sure you have the right body positioning and remember all the do’s and don’ts.

Dr. Frita - Frita McRae Fisher, M.D.
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Dr. Frita - Frita McRae Fisher, M.D.

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