If you choose to monitor your blood pressure at home, it is important to know how to get the best readings. Many factors affect blood pressure. The fact that there are differences in right and left arm readings emphasizes the importance of measuring blood pressure in both arms to initially prevent the misdiagnosis of high blood pressure.
Several doctors agree that when you have your blood pressure taken at the doctor’s office for the first time, it is recommended that it be taken in both arms. But when measuring blood pressure at home, readings are more easily taken in the non-dominant arm.
Steps to ensure reliable blood pressure readings
- Make sure the cuff fits
Be sure to measure around your upper arm and be sure the cuff will fit before purchasing your at home blood pressure monitor.
- Activities to avoid
If you smoke, drink caffeinated beverages or exercise within 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure, your numbers will not be reliable and could shock you. Try to avoid these activities before taking a reading.
- Sit correctly
Make sure your back is straight and supported properly. Do not sit on a couch. Make sure your feet are flat on the floor and do not cross your legs. Be sure the arm you are taking the reading from is supported on a flat surface (such as a table) and the upper part of the arm is at heart level. Ensure the middle part of the cuff is places directly placed above the elbow.
- Know your BP Unit
Before taking your initial reading, be sure you have read your bp monitor’s instructions or have your healthcare provider show you how to properly place the cuff on your arm and begin.
- Take multiple readings
Each time you take your blood pressure – even if you are satisfied with the readings – take two or three more readings one minute apart and record all of the results.
- Measure at the same time every day
It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to take the readings at the same time every day. Decide which time of day works for you and stick to it.
- Accurately record all of your results
Record, record, record all of your readings! Even if you take one right after another, 5 in a row – record them all. Share your blood pressure records with you healthcare team. Your blood pressure machine may even have a built-in memory to store your readings. If it does, take those readings with you to your healthcare provider. This will help your doctor stay informed of your progress or if further actions must be taken to lower your blood pressure.
- Understand your readings
Understanding your blood pressure numbers will help you better understand your high blood pressure condition. Sit down with your doctor and go over all key terms you should know and the important blood pressure numbers to know.
- Contact your doctor regarding high readings If you find that you are getting several high blood pressure readings, contact your doctor immediately. You could be reading it wrong, the cuff may not be placed right or your blood pressure could be rising. All of these issues your doctor can help you with.
- Home blood pressure monitoring is becoming more and more popular and you don’t need a prescription. Monitoring your blood pressure at home is an easy step you can take to help improve your condition, help you keep tabs on your blood pressure in the comfort of your own home, monitor your progress and contribute to a plan of attack formulated by you and your healthcare team to lower your high blood pressure.