Measuring Your Blood Pressure At Home

Proper technique is essential for accurate readings

By Liza Klassen | November 2020 | Reviewed by Dr. Kelly Clinning ND

Correctly measure blood pressure |Home Blood Pressure Measurement Guidelines| Understanding blood pressure readings

 

Early identification of high blood pressure is critical. Hypertension is the leading cause of preventable premature death worldwide. Early and effective intervention significantly lowers your risk of having a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke. If you currently have or think you might develop hypertension, regular monitoring helps you and your health care practitioner evaluate treatment and lifestyle interventions.  Measurement also holds you accountable for your treatment plan! The frequency at which you measure your blood pressure is essential, but so is how you measure it. The following simple steps for taking your BP at home ensure your readings are accurate and reliable. 

 

Proper Setup and Device Selection

Ensure that you are using a validated BP device. Hypertension Canada provides a list of recommended devices that have been proven accurate in research studies. 

Check that you’re using the appropriate cuff size. Cuff size is vital for achieving an accurate reading! Wrap the cuff around your bare upper arm, about 3cm above your elbow, and secure. The cuff should feel snug (but not tight), and you should be able to fit two fingers between the blood pressure cuff and your arm. 

If you’re still unsure the size is correct, use a soft measuring tape to measure your arm’s circumference around the bicep. Record the measurement and select the BP cuff with the range that includes your arm circumference.

Avoid smoking, drinking caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, cola), drinking alcohol or exercising in the 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure. These activities can artificially elevate your blood pressure leading to inaccurate readings. If you feel anxious or in pain, wait to take your blood pressure until these feelings have passed. 

Five minutes before you take your blood pressure, empty your bladder and rest calmly in a seated position without talking. Ensure that you sit comfortably in a chair with your back supported and feet firmly planted on the ground. 

 

Home Blood Pressure Measurement Guidelines

  1. Follow your blood pressure monitor’s instructions, ensuring the appropriately sized cuff is secure and placed just above your elbow. Always place the cuff in direct contact with your skin, never over clothes.
  2. Place your arm with the cuff at heart level, preferably resting your arm on a hard surface like a table. Each time you take your blood pressure, make sure to use the same arm. Blood pressure may differ by a few points in each arm; this is normal but will impact your data’s accuracy. 
  3. Follow your monitor’s instructions to take your blood pressure reading. Take three separate readings one minute apart. Discard the first reading, and record the second and third readings. Record results using this printable (PDF) or the PreCardix® blood pressure app.

Did You know: The PreCardix® blood pressure app will calculate your blood pressure average for you! 

  1. Measure your blood pressure at the same time each day, preferably in the morning. 

Hypertension Canada recommends measuring your blood pressure daily in both the morning and evening if you have hypertension. If you are prehypertensive or have a family history of hypertension, measure blood pressure weekly. If you notice your blood pressure rising, consult with your health care practitioner.

 

Interpreting your Readings 

According to the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation and Hypertension Canada, there are three blood pressure categories. The first number is your systolic blood pressure. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure. 

Low Risk = <120/80 mmHg

Moderate Risk = 121-139/80-89 mmHg

Elevated Risk = ≥140/90 mmHg

Your blood pressure should be less than 140/90 mmHg for healthy adults with no underlying conditions. If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have hypertension, and Hypertension Canada recommends your blood pressure should be less than 130/80 mmHg. 

If your reading is over 140/90 mmHg, take it a few more times and record the results. Contact your doctor with this information to verify if it’s a concern or not. If your blood pressure exceeds 180/120 mmHg, wait 5 minutes and then retake your blood pressure. If your reading remains high, you may be experiencing a hypertensive crisis and should contact your doctor immediately. 

Important Information

Always consult with your health care provider before making changes to your blood pressure management plan. PreCardix does not treat, cure or prevent blood pressure related conditions. Measure and monitor blood pressure regularly. Know the signs of heart attack and stroke. Do not take PreCardix if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, have renal artery stenosis, history of angioneurotic edema or shellfish allergy.