Should you check your blood pressure at home?


Should you check your blood pressure at home?

Routinely checking your blood pressure at home is important, especially if you’re at risk for developing high blood pressure or trying to manage hypertension.
“If there’s a family history of high blood pressure, it’s wise to begin monitoring your blood pressure earlier rather than later,” says Sheryl Aiken, a nurse practitioner who offers care at Tidelands Health Cardiology at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach. “A lot can happen if it’s allowed to go uncontrolled.”

What's normal

Uncontrolled high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can lead to heart disease, kidney disease, heart failure, stroke, eye damage and other conditions. If there is a family history of high blood pressure, routine checks should begin in your 30s when blood pressure often starts to elevate, Aiken says.

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A normal blood pressure reading is a systolic (top) number that’s less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic (bottom) number that’s less than 80 mm Hg.
“If you’re consistently getting readings above 130 over 80, that’s considered high and needs to be checked by your doctor,” she says. “It’s also important to remember that you can temporarily experience elevated pressures that reflect how you feel. If you’re stressed, angry or sad, that can cause your levels to go up.”
By routinely monitoring your blood pressure at home, you can learn whether a high reading during your last visit with your doctor was temporary or whether you are routinely experiencing high blood pressure.


To begin home monitoring, you’ll need to acquire a home monitor. It’s a good idea to bring your monitoring device to your next care appointment to help ensure it’s accurate and being used properly. At the doctor’s office, you can compare your monitor’s readings with those taken manually by your provider.
Here are some tips on how to properly measure your blood pressure at home:

  • Avoid smoking, consuming caffeinated drinks or exercising 30 minutes before checking your blood pressure as each of these activities can elevate your readings.
  • Empty your bladder beforehand – 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 your 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 increase 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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