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How to check Blood Pressure at home

Dr. Ajay KohliNov 21, 2022

High Blood Pressure is a leading risk factor for death and disability, which affected 1.28 billion people in 2019, with half of them undiagnosed. So, it becomes imperative to monitor Blood Pressure regularly and take steps to manage it before serious issues come up. The best and easiest way to do that is to record your Blood Pressure at home, using either an automated Blood Pressure machine or a manual Blood Pressure monitor.

How To Check Blood Pressure At Home?

Contents

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What is Blood Pressure?

Blood Pressure is the amount of pressure your blood exerts on the walls of the arteries when your heart pumps. It is usually measured in millimetres of mercury, mmHg, with the readings consisting of two numbers, usually shown as one on top of the other.

  • Systolic Blood Pressure:  It is the first and usually the upper limit of the value that depicts how much pressure is exerted when your heart contracts.

  • Diastolic Blood Pressure: It is the second number and the lower limit of the measurement that represents the amount of pressure exerted by the blood when the heart relaxes between two beats.

Why does checking your Blood Pressure matter?

Checking Blood Pressure is a routine part of general healthcare that helps detect the state of High Blood Pressure or Hypertension as it puts you at increased risk of several conditions, including heart attack and stroke. Hypertension means your Blood Pressure is constantly above 140/90 mmHg (in the office) or 135/85mmHg (at home). The condition rarely has any noticeable symptoms until it is too late. The risk is even greater for people with heart disease, diabetes, and chronic kidney diseases.

What causes the Blood Pressure to fluctuate?

Blood Pressure fluctuates incessantly while blood tries to meet the body's demands. However, it is affected by several factors, such as the following.

  • Emotional stress

  • White coat syndrome (occurs when you visit your doctor)

  • Masked Hypertension (where your Blood Pressure is normal at work but very high at home)

  • Using over-the-counter or prescription medications (e.g., antidepressants, antidiuretics, cold and flu medications, etc.)

  • Cold temperature

  • Exercise or sexual activity

  • Full bladder

  • Eating tyramine-rich foods such as beer, processed meat, and picked food.

  • Excessive caffeine intake

  • Smoking

  • Adrenal gland problems causing hyperactivity

Why check Blood Pressure at home?

Even though fluctuations in Blood Pressure are a regular phenomenon, for someone who has High Blood Pressure, consistent monitoring of BP at home can help manage Hypertension. Therefore, if you have a Blood Pressure monitor at home, you can:

  • diagnose High Blood Pressure early on and monitor it accordingly, which can help reduce your risk of health complications.

  • get a clear picture of the risk for heart disease and stroke.

  • monitor your ambulatory Blood Pressure 24 hours a day, which again can reduce the risk of organ damage caused by Masked Hypertension.

  • gain more control over your Blood Pressure

  • track your treatment progress, which can help your doctor to adjust your dosage or medication, if necessary.

  • avoid a white-coat reaction that causes anxiety and a temporary spike in Blood Pressure when you visit the medical centre.

  • save time and money from repeated doctor visits and other complications.

Tips for measuring Blood Pressure at home

  • Take readings at the same time every day, ideally in the morning and evening,

  • Take two or three readings, about 1 or 2 minutes apart, while working out the average.

  • Use the same arm to take the measurement

  • Keep taking your medication as prescribed, even if you notice small or drastic changes in your reading.

  • Follow the manufacturer's instructions if using a digital monitor.

  • Please keep a record of all your readings and share them with your doctor to track your treatment progress 

Steps to measure your Blood Pressure at home

Checking your Blood Pressure at home is a quick, easy, and inexpensive process, despite not being a replacement for regular check-ups by your doctor. You can follow these steps to gauge your Blood Pressure correctly and get reliable readings.

Before taking your Blood Pressure, you should:

  • Find a quiet place so that you can listen to your heartbeat

  • Don't eat, drink or smoke within 30 minutes of the reading

  • Empty your bladder

  • Dress loosely, preferably in a short-sleeved t-shirt so that you can easily band the cuff around your arm

  • Rest for 5 to 10 minutes and remain silent.

  • Sit on a chair in a comfortable position, ensuring your feet are flat on the ground and your back and arm are well supported.

  • Place your left forearm flat on a table or desk at the level of the heart.

  • Wrap the Blood Pressure cuff around your bare arm, with its bottom edge placed 1 inch above the crease of your elbow. Make sure it fits snugly without being too tight or loose.

When taking your Blood Pressure, choose from the following options that best meets your needs.

  • Option 1: You can use a well-calibrated digital sphygmomanometer that can accurately measure your BP at home unless you suffer from heart rhythm conditions like atrial fibrillation, arrhythmia, etc. This process is called self-measured Blood Pressure (SMBP) monitoring. These devices are safe and easy to use since inflation and deflation of the cuff are mostly automatic. Also, you don't need a stethoscope to listen to the heartbeat.

  • Option 2: You can also do a manual method, where you'll need a manual sphygmomanometer, where a rubber cuff is attached to an inflatable balloon and has an aneroid monitor (a number dial) or a mercury scale. And a stethoscope.

During this process, cuff your upper arm and squeeze the balloon to inflate it about 20 to 30 mm Hg higher than your normal Blood Pressure. This will stop the blood flow in your artery. Then open the valve on the cuff to deflate it as you listen through the stethoscope (placed inside the elbow crease) to hear the first whoosh of blood flow. This indicates your Blood Pressure is falling. Record the number; it is your systolic pressure. Continue to listen to the pulsing sounds until they completely stop. Then again, record the second number to determine the diastolic pressure.

You've to record your measurements as systolic over diastolic. For instance, 120/80. Remember, manually measuring Blood Pressure requires training and precision. Thus, it would be best to ask a friend or family member to help you.

What does the Blood Pressure reading mean?

Different people have slightly different Blood Pressures. What you consider low or high may be normal for someone else. This is because a person's Blood Pressure is often based on their:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Weight

  • Medication history

  • Risk of other chronic diseases

You have:

  • Normal Blood Pressure if your number is 120/80 or lower

  • High Blood Pressure if the number is 140/90 or higher.

  • Prehypertension if the value is between 120/80 and 140/90. This means you are at risk for High Blood Pressure, which directly puts you at risk of other serious health outcomes.

  • hypertensive crisis, your systolic Blood Pressure crosses 180 mm Hg, and the diastolic Blood Pressure exceeds 120 mm Hg. This stage necessitates immediate medical care as you can suffer from multiple organ damage.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Here’s a list of common questions and answers related to checking Blood Pressure at home.

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How often should I check my Blood Pressure?

It is recommended that people over 18 should have their Blood Pressure measured every 2 to 5 years, while those over 40 and young individuals with high risk should measure their Blood Pressure every year. 

What are the factors that affect my Blood Pressure most?

You may be at high risk of high Blood Pressure if you have one of these conditions:

  • Elevated Blood Pressure

  • Physical inactivity

  • Obesity

  • Unhealthy diet

  • Diabetes

  • Family history of Hypertension

  • Overuse of alcohol and smoking

  • Age above 65

  • Gender (women are more likely than men)

Is there any Blood Pressure value that warrants emergency hospital admission?

Patients with Hypertension usually have no symptoms, even with very High Blood Pressure values. But if the Blood Pressure reaches the number of 200/120 mmHg, accompanied by pulmonary oedema, heart attack, stroke, etc.), an appointment with their primary care doctor becomes the need of the hour to establish the appropriate treatment and follow-up.

Do I have to rest before taking my Blood Pressure?

Before measuring the Blood Pressure, it is advised to sit down and rest for at least 5 minutes. In addition, you should avoid alcohol, caffeine, and smoking 30 minutes before the measurement.

How to choose the right Blood Pressure monitor?

For monitoring your Blood Pressure at home, you will need a Blood Pressure monitor. However, choosing a home Blood Pressure monitor can be confusing since many options are available. Yet, the most important thing when you buy an automated digital machine is that it must produce precise results, is simple to use, well-calibrated, and largely fits within your budget.

References

Disclaimer: The content on this page is generic and shared only for informational and explanatory purposes. Please consult a doctor before making any health-related decisions.

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