How to Take Your Blood Pressure

Has your doctor recently informed you that you may have high blood pressure or pre-hypertension? If so, you know how important it is that you get your blood pressure under control. Your goal is to get it back within a healthy range and keep it there. Doing so may entail making some sweeping changes to your diet and exercise plan, but it is worth it to prevent heart disease and stroke.

In order to figure out if the changes you are making to your lifestyle are having the desired effect on your blood pressure, you need be taking measurements at home on a regular basis. Depending on your doctor’s orders, this could be once or twice a day, a week, or a month.

What Are Healthy Blood Pressure Measurements?

First off, you need to know what kinds of readings to look for to know if you are in a healthy range:

  • Normal blood pressure: Systolic less than 120, diastolic less than 80.
  • Pre-hypertension: Systolic ranging from 120-139, diastolic ranging from 80-89.
  • High blood pressure/hypertension: Systolic over 139, diastolic over 89.
  • Low blood pressure: Generally defined as systolic under 90 mm and diastolic under 60 mm.

How Do You Take Your Blood Pressure At Home?

1. First, make sure that you have not recently done anything that would cause your blood pressure to spike temporarily. Wait at least half an hour after eating, drinking caffeinated beverages, smoking, exercising, or taking certain medications. Also be aware that cold temperatures may spike your blood pressure, as can stress.

2. Empty your bladder. A full bladder can elevate your reading. Sit somewhere quiet and relaxing. Rest your feet flat on the ground. Sit up straight, and rest your arm at heart level.

3. Wait about five minutes. Do something to distract yourself if necessary. The whole point is to reach a calm, resting state.

4. Now it is time to actually take your blood pressure. The exact steps will depend on whether you are using a manual or automatic blood pressure monitor, and on the exact model you purchased. Most people use automatic models these days, which do most of the work for you. You simply secure the cuff on your upper arm or wrist as directed. After making sure it is properly positioned, you push the button, and the machine will take your reading.

5. It is often recommended to take another reading a few minutes later. If there is a variation of more than five points between them, take a third in another few minutes. Average the readings together or let the machine do it for you. You need to take the cuff off and reapply it each time. Sometimes inaccurate positioning is responsible for odd readings.

Tips and Troubleshooting

  • Odds are that the first few times you take your blood pressure reading, you will get some odd results because you 1-are not used to the process and may be nervous, 2-may not be entirely sure what you are doing. Over time you will probably get more predictable results.
  • If you have a wrist model, know it may be less accurate than an upper arm model, and may give you slightly elevated readings.
  • It is wise to bring your monitor with you to your doctor’s office after you buy it. Your doctor can calibrate it and let you know how accurate it is, and give you tips for using it properly.
  • Even if the monitor automatically stores your readings, it is a good idea to take some additional notes yourself. While ideally you should be calm and collected every time you take your reading, there are going to be days when you are anxious, frustrated, hot or cold, or experiencing some other situation that could throw off your reading. Keep track of these variables so that you have perspective on your readings.

Now you know what you need to do to get accurate blood pressure readings. If you have a hard time properly positioning and adjusting blood pressure monitor cuffs, consider buying a device that provides you with positioning guidance. Need help picking out a monitor? Check out our detailed buying guides!

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