How To Take Blood Pressure At Home

Written by 
Molly Burford
Article at a glance
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) is a medical condition that is associated with a number of health issues including a higher risk of having a stroke, heart attack, or heart failure. 

  • Some adults will need to measure their own blood pressure regularly, which would mean at home measuring. 

  • Getting an accurate blood pressure measurement is important. In order to obtain an accurate self-measured blood pressure reading outside of a doctor’s office, there are a number of best practices one must follow.

  • Not all blood pressure monitors operate the same way. The American Heart Association recommends blood pressure cuffs that fit the arm over the wrist or finger blood pressure monitors. 

Woman Checking Blood Pressure of a Man

Keeping blood pressure in a normal range is important for overall health. Having too high blood pressure, known as hypertension, is associated with a number of health risks including a higher chance of strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney disease or failure, vision loss, heart disease, and sexual dysfunction. 

Many people are not aware of their high blood pressure until serious problems arise. In fact, one in three American adults do not realize they have high blood pressure and are therefore untreated for their condition. 

Those who are aware of blood pressure problems or are at a higher risk for developing hypertension may wish to regularly take their blood pressure at home. 

This article will explain exactly how to take blood pressure at home, including tips for accurate readings from home blood pressure monitoring. 

Understanding Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the pressure blood imposes against the artery walls. The arteries are responsible for transporting blood from the heart to the other parts of the body. It is normal for blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the course of a given day. Blood pressure is an important indicator of someone’s overall health and wellness.

Who Needs To Measure Blood Pressure At Home?

Annual blood pressure readings are recommended for all adults, but those with blood pressure issues such as hypertension will need to monitor their blood pressure more regularly. Other types of patients who may need to read blood pressure from home include: 

  • People who are starting high blood pressure medications and need to determine how effective the treatment is.

  • Anyone who has risk factors for high blood pressure such as older age, obesity, or a family history.

How To Take Blood Pressure At Home

In order to take blood pressure at home, one can buy and use a home blood pressure monitor. For an accurate reading, one should adhere to the following guidelines from the American Heart Association:

Sit Still:

  • Do not smoke, consume caffeine, or exercise within 30 minutes of reading blood pressure to steady the heart.

  • Make time to sit quietly for five minutes prior as well. 

Have Proper Posture:

  • Keep feet flat on the floor and the back straight. 

  • Have legs uncrossed. 

  • Use a table to support the arm on which the reading is being taken on. 

  • Ensure the upper arm is at heart level. 

Routine Blood Pressure Reading:

  • Take blood pressure at the same time each day to obtain an accurate blood pressure reading.

Recording a Reading: 

  • Take at least two or three readings, at intervals one minute apart.

  • Record each reading on a blood pressure log to track how your blood pressure is reading daily/​over time.

Don’t Take Your Blood Pressure Over Clothing: 

  • Always measure blood pressure on a bare arm as doing it over clothing may affect accuracy.

Person Using a Digital Blood Pressure Monitor

Picking The Right Blood Pressure Monitor

The American Heart Association recommends investing in a blood pressure monitor that is automatic, arm cuff-style, and fits the upper arm (bicep).

The American Heart Association recommends against wrist and finger monitors because they are not as accurate as a blood pressure cuff for the arm. Additionally, a digital blood pressure monitor is better than an aneroid monitor. 

How To Understand Blood Pressure Readings

To understand blood pressure numbers, knowing the definition of certain medical terms like systolic pressure and diastolic pressure can be helpful. 

Systolic Pressure

This is the first number, also known as the systolic number. 

Diastolic Pressure

This is the second number, also known as the diastolic number. Diastolic pressures show the amount of pressure the blood is placing against the artery walls, while the heart rests in between heart beats. 

Note: Normal blood pressure will have a systolic pressure under 120, and a diastolic pressure under 80. Often this is read as 120 over 80” and is written as 12080.

A woman getting her blood pressure tested

How To Lower High Blood Pressure

If someone gets a high blood pressure reading, there are a number of strategies adults with hypertension can use to lower their blood pressure and help it return (and stay) within a healthy range. Some of these strategies include making lifestyle changes such as:

  • Eat a healthy diet 

  • Maintain a healthy weight

  • Increase physical activity 

  • Quit smoking

  • Drink in moderation

  • Perfect your sleep hygiene

Note: Hypertension disproportionately affects African Americans. Learn more about hypertension in African Americans here.

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