Learn how to check your blood pressure at home and what types of monitors you can buy.
Many people enjoy doing things for themselves around the house. Now there are “do-it-yourself” blood pressure checkup kits available, too.
You need to have your blood pressure checked every two years by your doctor – probably more often if it is high. Monitoring yourself at home, though, can help keep you on track between doctor visits.
With home monitoring, you will be able to give your doctor important information about your blood pressure and how well your treatment is working. It can also alert you to any dangerous increase or drop in pressure.
Ask your doctor how often you should take your blood pressure and what to do if it is higher or lower than your recommended target range.
Choosing a blood pressure monitor
Check with your doctor about what type of monitor may be best for you. The two main types are:
Aneroid monitors. These monitors are less costly than others. They come with a stethoscope and a cuff that you inflate by squeezing a rubber bulb. Some people find it hard to inflate the cuff, hear their heartbeat or read the dial.
Digital monitors. These devices have a screen that displays your blood pressure reading. The stethoscope is built into the unit. Some models come with a cuff that inflates automatically.
Digital monitors require batteries and can be fragile. You’ll also pay more for one, but it may be a better choice if you have arthritis or are hearing- or vision-impaired.
Avoid finger or wrist monitors, which are not as accurate.
Ready, set, go
Ask your doctor or nurse to show you how to take your pressure. Then, have them watch you use the monitor to make sure you are doing it right. By taking your blood pressure right after the doctor’s reading, you will be able to check the accuracy of the monitor.
To get the most accurate measurement:
- Avoid alcohol, caffeine or tobacco for at least 30 minutes beforehand.
- Sit comfortably, keep your feet flat on the floor and uncross your legs.
- Rest quietly for three to five minutes.
- Use the bathroom first. Having a full bladder can affect your final reading.
- When ready, rest your forearm on the table with your palm facing up.
How it works
Follow the directions for your monitor model. Following are tips on how to use some monitors.
- Put the stethoscope earpieces in your ears.
- Place the stethoscope disk on the inner side of your elbow, about one inch above the crease.
- Rest the dial in the open palm of your cuffed arm. Make sure you can see the dial clearly.
- With your other hand, squeeze the pump and inflate the cuff quickly until the gauge reads 30 points higher than your last systolic pressure (the top number).
- Deflate the cuff by turning the knob on the pump slowly.
- As the cuff deflates, listen through the stethoscope for the first sound of your heartbeat. When you hear it, check the reading on the dial. This is your systolic pressure.
- Continue to deflate the cuff and listen through the stethoscope. Watch the dial and note when you no longer hear your heartbeat. This is your diastolic pressure (the bottom number).
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for placing and inflating the cuff.
- Turn the machine on. Wait until display goes to “zero.”
- Sit still and quietly as the machine takes its measurement. Movement can affect the accuracy of this monitor.
- Wait for a long beep, which signals the reading is complete. You will then see it displayed on the monitor. When finished, let the cuff deflate.
Record the date, time and number of your blood pressure reading. Also make a note of anything that might have affected it – like pain, exercise or stress. To confirm your reading, wait a few minutes and take your blood pressure again. Then, average the results.
To get the most benefit, keep a record of your readings and bring it with you on your next visit to the doctor.