How to Take Your Blood Pressure at Home
If you’ve been to the doctor lately for a health issue or just a general check-up, the nurse or medical assistant probably took your blood pressure as part of your vital sign screening at the beginning of the appointment. Whether you already know that you have borderline or high blood pressure that needs to be managed or you’re just trying to stay on top of your cardiovascular health as you get older, being able to take your blood pressure on your own is helpful. Thanks to developments in technology, you no longer need to go to the doctor’s office to have your blood pressure monitored, and getting real-time data about your blood pressure can help you better manage your health.
At-home blood pressure cuffs
Today’s at-home blood pressure cuffs are intuitive, easy to use and widely accessible for most people. In many cases, you can just buy one yourself over the counter at a drug store or pharmacy, but your doctor may have a specific model they recommend.
Make sure you’re calm and resting
Your blood pressure changes depending on your overall physical and emotional state. This means that you need to take your blood pressure in the same state each time to be able to make accurate comparisons. If you take your blood pressure right after a workout or when you’ve had an argument with a family member, your readings could be inaccurately high. In general, it’s best to take your blood pressure at the same time(s) each day and when you are in a calm, rested state — unless otherwise directed by your doctor.
Pay attention to positioning
Your body position and what you’re doing during the blood pressure reading are also important. Even small things such as talking or crossing your legs can result in a higher reading. For the best results, the American Heart Association recommends not talking, breathing normally, sitting with your legs uncrossed and keeping your legs and feet supported while you’re taking your blood pressure at home. Make sure to read through any instructions that come with your blood pressure monitor, such as where to place the monitor on your arm, and follow them exactly.
Keep an accurate record of your data
It’s important to write down your blood pressure readings or record them electronically so that you have a record of data to show your doctor at your next appointment or if there are concerns. You may also want to note how you were feeling overall or if there were any changes to your situation such as taking it before a meal instead of after.
One app that makes this easier is Heart Club by Semler Health. Semler Health was created by Dr. Herbert Semler, MD, MSc, FACC, FACP, FAHA, FACI — a cardiologist who trained at the Mayo Clinic.
Heart Club lets you track your blood pressure readings over time so you can see trends, and it also lets you track your walks and gives you one place to store all of your medical documents for easy reference.
Evaluate your readings
Once the blood pressure monitor lets you know that it’s done, you can evaluate your reading. The Centers for Disease Control notes that a normal blood pressure reading is one that is under 130/80 mmHg. However, if you have other health conditions, your target range may be higher or lower, so make sure that you know what your doctor wants your blood pressure to be and which numbers mean that an office visit is warranted.
Knowing what your blood pressure is in the moment and how it trends over time can give you valuable data. Monitoring your blood pressure at home is an easy and convenient way to be proactive and take positive steps toward improving your heart health.