In honor of World Hypertension Day on Monday, May 17, 2021, we’re bringing up an important topic: monitoring your blood pressure at home.
Using a home blood pressure monitor can help you manage your condition and measure blood pressure accurately in the comfort of your own surroundings.
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, affects 45% of adults in the United States. With this condition, blood pushes too hard against the walls of the arteries.
Having high blood pressure increases the risk of some serious health problems, including heart disease and stroke. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend measuring your pressure at home using a monitor.
How Does a Blood Pressure Monitor Work?
Home blood pressure monitors typically have a cuff that wraps around your arm and a gauge that displays the readings. The cuff inflates with air and squeezes your upper arm, temporarily stopping blood from flowing through the artery. As the cuff slowly deflates and blood flow resumes, the device measures the motion of the walls of the artery.
This process takes about one minute, and your results will display on the device’s screen as two numbers. The first number is the systolic blood pressure. It refers to the pressure in your arteries with each heartbeat. The second number is the diastolic blood pressure and the measurement between heartbeats.
- Normal blood pressure: A reading of less than 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal.
- Elevated blood pressure: A high blood pressure is a systolic reading from 120-129, and the diastolic is less than 80 mm Hg.
- High blood pressure: There are two stages of high blood pressure (hypertension). In hypertension stage one, readings are between 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. In hypertension stage two, readings are consistently 140/90 mm Hg or higher.
- Hypertensive crisis: A reading of 180/120 or higher could indicate a hypertensive crisis. You will need medical attention.
Blood pressure monitors may display a third number, as well, to represent your heart rate. For adults, a regular resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Why is it Important to Know Your Blood Pressure?
Over time, high blood pressure damages your blood vessels, making your circulatory system work harder. That increases the risk of several health conditions, including heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.
Home monitoring can help your doctor determine if your treatments are working or if adjustments are necessary. To get the most accurate readings, use these tips to measure blood pressure at home:
- Avoid tobacco, caffeine, and alcohol for 30 minutes before taking a reading.
- Take measurements at the same time of day, such as in the morning.
- Place the cuff against your bare skin, not over clothing.
- Sit upright with your back supported and your feet flat on the floor.
- Elevate your arm to the heart level and have it resting it on a flat surface.
- Take a second reading to check accuracy.
What Home Monitor Designs Are Available?
Some styles have upper arm cuffs, while others measure blood pressure at the wrist or fingers. Blood pressure monitors may also be manual or automatic. With manual models, you inflate the cuff with a rubber squeeze ball, and you use a stethoscope to listen for sounds that help you read the systolic and diastolic pressures. It takes training to be able to take manual blood pressure.
Automatic models inflate with the push of a button; the machine determines the reading and then displays it for you. It’s something anyone can do.
When shopping for a home blood pressure monitor, some factors to consider:
- Style: Generally, home blood pressure monitors with upper arm cuffs are the most accurate. Other types include monitors for the wrist or thigh.
- Cost: The cost varies, but they generally run between $40 and $100. Some health insurance plans may partially or fully cover this cost.
- Size: Before selecting a home monitor, determine your cuff size by measuring your upper arm around your bicep. Cuff sizing is the most important feature of a monitor. If the cuff is too small or too large, it may not provide accurate readings. Cuff sizes include:
- Small: 7″ – 10″
- Standard: 10.5″ – 13″
- Large: 13.5″ – 17″
- Extra-Large: If your arm measures more than 17 inches, ask your doctor for help selecting a cuff.
- Automation: The American Heart Association recommends automated blood pressure monitors for the average person. Manual blood pressure monitors are very accurate when used correctly, but recommended for only those individuals with a medical background due to their complexity of use.
- Readout: The screen that displays your measurement should be easy for you to read. It should show your pulse rate in addition to your blood pressure measurement. Record these readings and share them with your doctor.
Checking your measurements at home can help you manage your high blood pressure and stay healthy. For help choosing a home blood pressure monitor, check out what’s available at Simply Medical.