Should You Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home?
Home blood pressure monitoring is an excellent way to track your blood pressure control, and once at goal, to make sure you stay there.
Monitoring your blood pressure at home is an easy way to make sure your hypertension medications are working properly and that you're reaching and maintaining your blood pressure goals. The American Heart Association recommends at-home blood pressure monitoring for all people with hypertension. At-home blood pressure monitoring is considered especially beneficial for:
White Coat Syndrome
- People with elevated blood pressure readings at the doctor's office, to rule out "white coat syndrome" (being nervous at the doctor's office) and confirm true hypertension
- People starting medications for hypertension to see how effective the treatment is
- Those who have other risk factors associated with hypertension
- Elderly patients
- People who require consistent blood pressure monitoring, such as people with diabetes, coronary heart disease, or renal disease.
Some people may find they have good readings at home only to be surprised by high readings when they go to their physician's office. White coat hypertension may be the culprit. White coat hypertension is a term used to describe higher readings thought to be the result of the stress of being in a doctor's office. If you experience white coat hypertension, you may be at increased risk of developing hypertension; and your doctor should still address the change in blood pressure.
There are a lot of automated monitors that make it easy to take your blood pressure at home. If you choose to monitor at home, consider the following points when deciding to purchase a home blood pressure machine:
Before you buy:
Home blood pressure monitors make it easy to track your readings frequently. Ask your doctor if a home blood pressure monitor is appropriate for you.
TIP: If you choose to test at home, use an arm cuff blood pressure machine rather than a wrist or finger cuff. The brachial artery in your upper arm gives you a more reliable reading than a wrist artery.
- Ask your doctor or health insurance provider if the monitor is covered by your insurance. You may need your doctor to write you a letter to obtain insurance coverage.
- Ask your doctor if she/he recommends a particular model or type of blood pressure monitor. Your doctor may want you to get a machine that also measures your pulse.
- Ask your doctor how often you should measure your blood pressure, which arm should you use for the measurement, and how often you should give the results to your doctor.
- The blood pressure cuff needs to reach around at least 80 percent of your upper arm. Measure the circumference of your upper arm in inches to make sure the machine you buy can accommodate you.
- Decide how much money you want to spend on a blood pressure machine. Units typically cost between $35 and $80.
Your home monitor will include directions you need to read before you start. You should take two or three blood pressure readings on the days you monitor your blood pressure to get an average of the readings. Your doctor may ask you to take three readings, but you should only average the last two. When taking multiple readings, remember to wait one or two minutes between the readings or the amount of time indicated in the instruction manual. Talk to your doctor about how frequently you should take your blood pressure at home.
- If you wear glasses or have poor vision, make sure the blood pressure monitor has a large, easy-to-read display.
- If more than one person in the house is going to use the monitor, look for a function that stores readings for multiple users. Ask your pharmacist to help you understand the settings.
- Check to see if the blood pressure cuff is large enough for your arm.Remember, the cuff must cover at least 80 percent of your upper arm for an accurate reading. You can ask your pharmacist or doctor if you need a large cuff.
- Check to see if batteries are needed or if you can simply plug the monitor into a wall outlet.
There are a few things you can do to make sure you get the most accurate blood pressure readings:
Whether or not your monitor stores your results for future reference, it's a good idea to keep a written log of your daily readings for a few months. After two or three months, if you see that your home blood pressure readings are considerably lower than goal, your doctor may need to reevaluate your medications. While the goal is to get your blood pressure in control with diet, exercise, and medications, you don't want to be taking more medication than you need.
- Don't use tobacco, drink caffeinated beverages, or have an energy booster drink for thirty minutes prior to taking a reading. Rest for five minutes in the position in which you'll measure your blood pressure.
- Sit on a chair. Get in a comfortable position with your back against the chair and both feet on the ground.
- Apply the blood pressure cuff to your upper left arm. It should circle around at least 80 percent of your arm. If the cuff only goes halfway around your arm, you won't get an accurate reading.
- Don't talk or have a conversation during the measurement. Think calming thoughts and let the monitor do its work.
Additionally, it's a good idea to ask your doctor for an action plan to use if your readings are too high or too low. The plan should include your doctor's name and contact information, a list of your medications and how to take them, your goal blood pressure, the warning signs of high and low blood pressure, and specific instructions on when to call your doctor or 911.
Getting your blood pressure to the healthy goal determined by your doctor is the best way to avoid the life-threatening complications of hypertension. Home blood pressure monitoring is an excellent way to track your blood pressure control, and once at goal, to make sure you stay there. Don't settle for "almost" or "close enough." Once you've reached your blood pressure goal, stay on top of it; if you aren't at your goal, continue to work with your health care provider until you are.
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"Should You Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home?"
Christine Lee received her Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of in Stockton, California, and her B.S. in Clinical Laboratory Science from the University of Nevada, Reno. Licensed by both the California and Nevada State Boards of Pharmacy, Dr. Le...