Monitoring Your Blood Pressure At Home

In most cases, information is power, and the more information one has, the better that person’s decisions will be. Unfortunately, even those of us who have high blood pressure receive only limited information about our conditions. Blood pressure checks come a few times a year at a doctor’s or pharmacist’s office, and even these checks provide only a snapshot.

Once upon a time, the snapshot method may have been acceptable. But today, there are a wide range of accurate and easy-to-use devices available at little cost. So, there is no excuse for not monitoring your blood pressure at home. That being said, there are some important things to consider before taking the first reading.

Why It Matters

High blood pressure has been linked to heart disease and numerous other fatal and nonfatal health conditions, largely because the excess pressure damages blood vessels, creating an increased risk of aneurysms and other issues.

Understanding blood pressure is a key to managing the condition, since what is “high” for some age groups is “normal” for other individuals. Moreover, these cutoffs are constantly evaluated and subject to change, so keeping a close eye on your blood pressure is very important for your overall health.

Who Should Monitor Blood Pressure at Home?

Monitoring blood pressure is not the same as monitoring weight. Everyone should probably keep a reasonably close eye on their weight, but only some people need to continually monitor blood pressure. These groups include persons who:

  • Have been diagnosed with hypertension,
  • Are starting a blood pressure medication treatment program, whether it be medication or diet/exercise, and
  • Are pregnant and at risk for preeclampsia.

Home monitors are also a good way to confirm “white coat” hypertension (people who have high readings at the doctor’s office). However, as outlined below, do not use home readings as a reason to stop taking prescribed medication.

Persons with abnormal heart rates should probably not use a home monitor.

Selecting a Home Monitor

A good home blood pressure monitor should, first and foremost, be accurate. If possible, make sure the device is American Heart Association-certified before you select it. Also, since technology is advancing so rapidly, plan on replacing your monitor every year or two, to ensure that you have the most up-to-date technology. Additionally, although finger monitors are more convenient, cuffed monitors are much more accurate. Make sure the cuff fits well before you purchase the device. It really does not matter if you use your left or right arm. Finally, take your new device to your doctor for one more quick once-over.

Now, a few quick disclaimers. A home blood pressure monitor is designed to give your doctor the information s/he needs to diagnose and treat your condition, so it is not a substitute for physician visits. Similarly, a home blood pressure monitor is not a license to practice medicine. If your doctor gave you blood pressure-lowering medication, do not stop taking it no matter what the monitor says.

Using a Home Monitor

More than likely, your home blood pressure monitor will not be as good as the one in the doctor’s office. So, to compensate, it’s important to take these preparatory steps:

  • Stillness: Patients can walk right up to the machine in the doctor’s office, but home monitors are different. Furthermore, do not exercise, drink caffeinated beverages, or smoke within thirty minutes of your home test.
  • Watch your Posture: Incorrect pressure causes blood to pool and may affect the results. So, sit with your back supported and with both feet flat on the floor.
  • Cuff Placement: The middle section of the cuff should be right above the elbow’s eye. If you have no idea what that means, and you are certainly not alone if you don’t, check the device instructions because they should contain an illustration.
  • Consistent Time: Checking your blood pressure at the same time every day helps you remember to check it and also helps ensure consistent day-to-day results.
  • Follow up: Take several readings per sitting. Then, either record the results manually in a journal or upload them to your smart device or a secure website, as the monitor allows.

If you have any other questions about your device, ask your doctor.

The information that a home blood pressure monitor provides gives you added peace of mind and gives your doctor a more accurate basis for both diagnosis and treatment options.


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