How to choose a home blood pressure monitor


How to choose a home blood pressure monitor

With so many options out there, choosing a home blood pressure monitor can be overwhelming.
As you’re making your decision, there are some basic features to consider, says Sheryl Aiken, a nurse practitioner who offers care at Tidelands Health Cardiology at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach.
“I prefer the arm cuff monitors over the wrist cuff monitors because there is more room for error with the wrist cuff monitors,” Aiken says. “It’s also important to choose one that fits and is the right size for your arm. If it’s too small or too large, you can get false readings.”
No matter which monitoring device you choose, Aiken recommends bringing the device to an appointment at your physician’s office to compare readings with those taken by your provider. It’s a good way to calibrate the machine you select and help ensure it is accurate, Aiken says.

Key tips

Here are a few tips when choosing a home blood pressure monitor:

  • Look for an automatic, cuff-style bicep (upper arm) monitor. Wrist and finger monitors are less reliable. Automatic devices are easy to use and only require you to place the cuff, push a button and read the measurement on a digital display.
  • Choose one that’s been validated. Check or ask your pharmacist or care provider for recommendations.
  • Make sure the cuff fits your upper arm properly.
  • For added convenience, choose a monitor that keeps an internal log of your measurements. Some devices even calculate an average blood pressure over time or can transmit the readings to your physician.
  • Select a monitor that offers a battery backup or an alert that lets you know the battery is running low.
  • Once purchased, bring the monitor to your next doctor’s appointment to have the readings compared to your care provider’s readings. Your care provider can also help ensure you’re using the device properly.
  • Replace your monitor every 10 years.

Self-monitoring blood pressure at home is important because high blood pressure is a top risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can also lead to other serious conditions such as kidney disease, heart failure and eye damage.
“The readings you record at home are important because they reveal how the situations you’re dealing with day to day are affecting your heart health,” Aiken says. “It’s OK to get some highs and lows. It reflects how you’re feeling at any given time. But if you’re getting high readings on a consistent basis, you need to talk to your doctor about getting it under control.”

Properly using your monitor

To properly use your blood pressure monitor at home, follow these tips:

  • Avoid smoking, consuming caffeinated drinks or exercising 30 minutes before checking your blood pressure as each of these activities can elevate your blood pressure.
  • Empty your bladder before sitting – a full bladder can cause elevated readings.
  • Sit still for about five minutes in a straight back chair, such as a dining room chair, before measuring your blood pressure. Never check it while in bed.
  • Do not cross your legs. Keep your feet flat on the floor. Crossed legs can constrict blood flow and affect readings.
  • Keep your arm supported on a flat surface such as a table so that the upper arm is level with your heart.
  • When checking your blood pressure, don’t talk, text, watch TV or listen to the radio since these activities can add up to 10 points to your readings.
  • Take two or three readings, one minute apart, each time you sit down to take your blood pressure. Aiken suggests random checks at different times throughout the day at least twice a day.
  • Readings can be taken from either arm, but it’s a good idea to switch it up.
  • Wrap the cuff around your bare upper arm at least two fingers’ width above the bend of the arm.
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