Measuring Your Blood Pressure at Home

Home blood pressure monitors are now widely available, accurate and relatively inexpensive and are a highly valuable tool to anyone who has high blood pressure or is suspected of having high blood pressure. Their correct use is very important to ensure they give reliable information.

Years ago the general feeling among physicians was that the most accurate blood pressure readings were done in the doctor’s office using the “gold standard” mercury sphygmomanometer (that is the old fashioned blood pressure monitor that looked like a big thermometer). At that time, the importance of blood pressures done at home were discounted and not requested by clinicians thinking they couldn’t possibly be accurate. Careful research has shown exactly the opposite.

One study clearly showed that home blood pressure readings, when done properly, more closely reflect a person’s true blood pressure when compared to measurements done by doctors in doctor’s offices. Moreover, the newer electronic, “fully automatic” blood pressure devices are more accurate than the manual cuffs that require hearing the heart beat. After all, the human ear does have limitations.

Best of all, home monitoring of blood pressure may actually result in lower blood pressure. A study published August 6, 2013 in the Annals of Internal Medicine suggests when people check their blood pressure at home the result is lower blood pressure compared to those who don’t. It is suggested that home monitoring is a way to reinforce a blood pressure lowering lifestyle, like a low sodium diet and exercise.

Who should check home blood pressures?
Anyone who has had elevated blood pressure readings, has concerns about high blood pressure or has been diagnosed with high blood pressure is a good candidate for home blood pressure monitoring. This is especially true for people who have been told they have “white coat syndrome” or blood pressure elevation in the clinic due to the anxiety of being in a medical setting. Measurements at home give valuable information to clinicians on diagnosis and treatment.

Considerations when buying a Home Blood Pressure Unit

  • You should only buy upper arm monitors. The wrist and finger units are not as accurate.
    • Adult 'Standard' or 'Regular' Cuff - fits most average-sized people (up to 13.38 inches arm circumference)
    • Large Adult Cuff - fits most overweight people (13.7 to 17.3 inches arm circumference)
    • Adult 'Thigh' Cuff - fits most obese people or mid-sized people with heavy arms (17.7 to 20.4 inches arm circumference)
  • Fully automatic electronic units - Inflate automatically and display blood pressure readings with the touch of a button. Units with a memory are preferred. OMRON and Microlife units are typically high quality, cost effective and widely available.

Tips for accurate readings
Many factors influence our blood pressure - and that is normal. So, to get an accurate resting blood pressure reading the following points should be followed:

  • Activity increases blood pressure - and that is normal. So be calm, relaxed, sit and don’t even talk for 3-5 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.
  • Have your arm supported so that the blood pressure cuff is at heart level.
  • Avoid food, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol for 30 minutes before taking blood pressure readings.
  • Wait 30 minutes after waking before checking your blood pressure.
  • Vary the times you check a blood pressure - do some in the morning and some later in the day.
  • The average of several readings increases the accuracy. Experts feel a minimum of 5-6 measurements and up to 30 over a week’s time improves the accuracy of your monitoring.
  • Don’t forget to bring your blood pressure monitor to the clinic at least once to compare your unit’s performance to our readings.

At GreenField, the general consensus is that an acceptable blood pressure is less than 140/90. Experts agree that normal home readings should be 5 points lower or less than 135/85. Most importantly, if you are monitoring your blood pressure at home, please don’t forget to share your home readings with your GreenField clinician. For additional information and resources please visit the American Heart Association’s website. As always, if you have any questions or concerns, please discuss them with your GreenField clinician.