How to Check Your Blood Pressure

How To Pick A Monitor

  • Choose the type of blood pressure monitor that’s best for you:
    • An automatic arm cuff inflates on its own.
      • This may not work if you have an irregular heartbeat.
    • A manual arm cuff displays readings automatically, but you must inflate the cuff by pumping a bulb.
    • Wrist monitors are easy to use, but cost more and are not as reliable as arm cuffs.
      • These can be used if you have a very large arm that doesn’t fit well in an arm cuff.
    • Fingertip monitors are not as reliable as other types. Avoid these.
  • Ask your pharmacist to help you choose a reliable product.
    • Good brands include Omron and Lifesource. These companies also make some store brand monitors.
  • Other things to look at before you buy a monitor:
    • Make sure you can read the display easily.
    • With arm monitors, choose the correct size cuff for your arm.

What To Do BEFORE You Take Your Blood Pressure

  • Sit quietly for at least five minutes before taking the reading.
  • Sit up straight with feet flat on the floor and back supported.
  • Do not cross legs or ankles.
  • Keep your upper arm at the level of your heart.

How To Take Your Blood Pressure

  • Roll up your sleeve or remove any clothing with a tight sleeve.
  • Avoid talking while you take your blood pressure.
  • If you’re using an arm cuff, rest your arm on a table with your palm up.
  • If you’re using a wrist monitor, keep your wrist level with your heart.
  • Take your blood pressure two or three times.
    • Wait a minute or two between each measurement. Record the average of the readings.
  • At least once a year, take your home monitor with you to your healthcare provider. Compare the readings from your monitor with their blood pressure monitor.
    • Do this more often if your monitor is dropped or if the blood pressure readings change suddenly.

What Blood Pressure Numbers Mean

  • Your blood pressure shows how hard your heart works to pump blood.
    • The top number (systolic) is the pressure when the heart contracts.
    • The bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure when the heart relaxes.
  • People with high blood pressure have more heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and blindness.
  • Your blood pressure might read lower with your home monitor compared to your provider’s monitor.
  • Talk with your provider if you are concerned about your readings.

What You Can Do To Lower Your Blood Pressure

  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Watch your salt intake
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
  • Exercise regularly
  • Stop smoking
  • Do not drink too much alcohol

[This handout may not cover all possible information. It does not replace the need for professional medical care. Always follow the instructions from your healthcare provider.] [January 2018; 340102]

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