More and more experts now recommend that people with high blood pressure regularly check their blood pressure at home. Doing this gives people an idea where their blood pressure stands in between office visits, and can motivate them to care more about their health. It also helps doctors make quick medication adjustments to keep blood pressure in the healthy zone.
The fact that blood pressure measurements vary is no surprise. Blood pressure wanders all over the map throughout the day. It’s generally lowest first thing in the morning, after a person wakes up, and then steadily rises. Blood pressure responds dynamically to movements, meals, and moods.
“Blood pressure is variable even when measured by precise methods,” says Dr. Christian Ruff, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “To get a more accurate assessment of blood pressure, regardless of blood pressure monitor used, people should perform multiple recordings and average them.”
The best device for most people is a device with an automatically inflating arm cuff and large digital readout for easy reading. To get the most accurate blood pressure readings at home, follow these steps:
- Avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, and don’t smoke, during the 30 minutes before the test.
- Sit quietly for five minutes with your back supported and feet on the floor.
- When making the measurement, support your arm so your elbow is at the level of your heart.
- Push your sleeves out of the way and wrap the cuff over bare skin.
- Measure your blood pressure according to the machine’s instructions. Leave the deflated cuff in place, wait a minute, then take a second reading. If the readings are close, average them. If not, repeat again and average the three readings.
- Don’t be too concerned if a reading is high. Relax for a few minutes and try again.
- Keep a record of your blood pressure readings and the time of day they are made.