Checking your blood pressure at home on a regular basis is important for a number of reasons. It enables both you and your healthcare provider to make sure it is well controlled, and to determine whether treatment, if applicable, is effective.
Choosing a blood pressure device
The device used to measure blood pressure is called a blood pressure monitor. When choosing a device, make sure it bears the label "Recommended by Hypertension Canada" with a heart and a silver or gold checkmark, as this will ensure its quality and accuracy. Devices used to measure blood pressure can be purchased from most pharmacies and medical supply stores. They do not require a prescription. There are numerous monitors on the market, and models vary greatly in the features they offer and in their price point. It should be noted that wrist and finger blood pressure monitors are not as accurate as upper arm monitors.
The size of the cuff must be selected according to the circumference of the arm. To make sure you are selecting the proper size, measure the circumference of the arm and compare with the size on the box. Speak to a health professional if you need help finding a model that suits your needs.
When should you take your blood pressure?
Blood pressure should be measured regularly, and as directed by your doctor. In the week leading up to an appointment with your doctor, and whenever changes are made to your medication, your health provider may advise you to take your blood pressure four times a day:
- Twice in the morning, before having breakfast and taking your medication.
- Twice in the evening, before bathing and taking your medication.
Before taking your blood pressure
A few precautions must be taken to ensure an accurate reading:
- Wait 2 hours after a meal.
- Avoid stimulants (e.g., decongestants).
- Do not smoke, drink caffeine or exercise 60 minutes before taking your blood pressure.
- Use the bathroom, if needed.
- Do not wear tight clothing.
- Sit quietly and relax for at least 5 minutes.
Taking your blood pressure
For the most accurate blood pressure readings, follow the steps below:
- Sit in a chair that supports your back and next to a table that supports your arm. The arm should be at heart level.
- Place the blood pressure monitor on the table.
- Legs should be uncrossed. Both feet should be flat on the floor.
- Place the cuff on bare skin after removing any sleeved clothing.
- Position the cuff so that its lower edge is about 3 cm above the bend of your elbow, and use the fastener to tighten until snug, but not too tight. The tubing should point towards the hand, not the shoulder.
- Rest your forearm on the table, palm facing up.
- To check your blood pressure, follow the instructions that are specific to your blood pressure monitor.
- Do not speak, eat, watch television or use your phone while taking your blood pressure.
- Take a second reading 2 to 5 minutes later.
- Record the time, date and readings in a blood pressure log.
Take your device to your health care provider once a year to make sure it is working properly, and to check whether your technique is correct.