How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home

Monitoring your blood pressure at home can be an important tool for managing hypertension and preventing related health complications. Here are some tips for taking accurate blood pressure readings at home:

At Home Blood Pressure Monitor

Choose the Right Blood Pressure Monitor

Use a validated blood pressure monitor with an appropriate cuff size for your arm. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist for advice on selecting the right equipment. 

Choosing the appropriate blood pressure cuff size is important for accurate blood pressure readings. The cuff should fit snugly around your upper arm, but not be too tight or too loose. An improperly sized cuff can result in inaccurate readings. Here are some general guidelines for choosing the right cuff size:

  •     Measure your arm: Measure the circumference of your upper arm at the midpoint between your shoulder and elbow. Use a tape measure or ask your doctor to measure it for you.

  •     Choose the cuff size: Use the measurements to select the appropriate cuff size. Most blood pressure monitors come with a standard cuff that fits arms with a circumference of 9 to 13 inches. However, if your arm circumference is outside of this range, you may need a larger or smaller cuff.

  •     Check the fit: When you put on the cuff, make sure it fits snugly around your upper arm, with the bottom edge of the cuff about an inch above your elbow. You should be able to fit two fingers between the cuff and your arm.

  •     Consider adjustable cuffs: If your arm circumference falls in between sizes, consider an adjustable cuff that can be tightened or loosened to fit your arm properly.

Get ready: Don't smoke, eat, or drink caffeine for at least 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure. Make sure you use the bathroom and sit quietly for 5 minutes before measuring.

Sit properly: Sit with your back straight and supported, feet flat on the ground, and arm at heart level. Rest your arm on a table or armrest, with your palm facing up. Sitting up straight during a blood pressure reading is important for several reasons. Here's why:

  • Accuracy: Sitting up straight helps ensure an accurate blood pressure reading. If you slouch or lean back during the reading, it can affect the accuracy of the measurement.

  • Consistency: Sitting up straight helps ensure consistency in your blood pressure readings. If you're consistently in the same position during readings, it can help your doctor identify any changes in your blood pressure over time.

  •  Comfort: Sitting up straight can help you feel more comfortable during the reading. If you're slouching or leaning back, it can be uncomfortable and may affect the accuracy of the reading.

  •  Standardization: Sitting up straight is part of the standard protocol for blood pressure readings. If you're sitting in the same position as others who have had their blood pressure taken, it helps ensure consistency across readings.

 Have Your Arm at Heart Level - The arm level at which blood pressure is measured can have an impact on the accuracy of the readings. When blood pressure is measured in the upper arm, the height of the arm relative to the heart can affect the readings.

If the arm is held above the level of the heart, blood pressure measurements may be lower than the actual blood pressure. This is because gravity causes blood to flow more easily towards the arm, reducing the resistance in the blood vessels, and thus, lowering the blood pressure.

On the other hand, if the arm is held below the level of the heart, blood pressure measurements may be higher than the actual blood pressure. This is because gravity causes blood to flow less easily towards the arm, increasing the resistance in the blood vessels, and thus, raising the blood pressure.

To obtain accurate blood pressure readings, it is recommended that the arm be positioned at heart level or slightly below heart level.

Take multiple readings: Take at least two readings, separated by 1-2 minutes, and average the results. Measure your blood pressure at the same time each day.

Keep a record: Record your blood pressure readings in a log or journal to share with your doctor. This can help identify trends and make adjustments to your treatment plan if necessary.

Follow instructions: Follow the instructions that come with your blood pressure monitor carefully. Make sure you know how to use it properly, including how to inflate and deflate the cuff.

Consult your doctor: Talk to your doctor about your home blood pressure readings and any concerns you may have. They can help interpret your readings and make recommendations for treatment.

Why Does The Blood Pressure Cuff Hurt When Inflated?

 Blood pressure cuffs, also known as sphygmomanometers, are used to measure blood pressure by temporarily stopping blood flow in the arm and then slowly releasing the pressure. The cuff needs to be inflated to a pressure above your systolic blood pressure (the higher number) to get an accurate reading.

When the cuff is inflated, it can sometimes cause discomfort or pain for several reasons:

  • Compression of the arm: The cuff needs to be tight enough to stop blood flow, and this compression can cause discomfort, especially if you have sensitive skin or underlying conditions such as arthritis or peripheral vascular disease.

  • Incorrect cuff size: If the cuff is too small for your arm, it may need to be inflated to a higher pressure to get an accurate reading, which can cause more discomfort. Make sure to use the appropriate cuff size for your arm.

  • Incorrect placement: If the cuff is not placed correctly on your arm, it can cause discomfort. Ensure that the cuff is placed about 1-2 inches (2.5-5 cm) above the elbow, and the air bladder is centered over the brachial artery.

  • Anxiety: Some people may experience anxiety or nervousness during a blood pressure reading, which can make them more sensitive to the sensation of the cuff inflating.

Why Does My Blood Pressure Cuff Inflate Twice? 

If your blood pressure cuff inflates twice during a measurement, it could be due to one of the following reasons:

  • Automatic recheck: Some automated blood pressure monitors are designed to automatically take a second measurement if the initial reading is uncertain or seems inaccurate. This can occur if there's excessive movement, irregular heartbeats, or if the cuff is not properly positioned on your arm. The device may inflate the cuff a second time to ensure a more accurate reading.

  • Device calibration: Occasionally, the blood pressure monitor may need to calibrate itself to ensure accurate measurements. This may involve inflating the cuff more than once.

  • User error: If you're using a manual blood pressure cuff, you might accidentally deflate the cuff too quickly or too slowly, leading to an inaccurate reading. In this case, you may need to repeat the process to get a more accurate measurement.