Tracking your blood pressure is one of the most important things you can do for your health. In fact, published studies show that monitoring can improve control over blood pressure.
But your measurements will only be as good as the data you record. Accuracy is essential.
What is Blood Pressure?
First, it is important to understand blood pressure.
Blood pressure refers to the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels, pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood.
If blood pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body and create serious health concerns. It is beneficial to check and track your blood pressure regularly and share the results with your healthcare professional to manage any issues.
What the Numbers Mean
Blood pressure readings have two numbers:
1. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
2. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.
To better understand the range of normal readings and which numbers put you at greater risk for health problems, click here.
How to Measure Properly
Monitoring your blood pressure at home is beneficial in tracking your levels, assisting with diagnosis, tracking your treatment, and more. Just about everyone who has high blood pressure (HBP, or hypertension), or is at risk for it, can benefit from home blood pressure monitoring, as long as it is done properly.
Here are three crucial steps to assure you achieve optimum accurate blood pressure measurement each and every time.
Always be seated in a comfortable position and in a calm state of mind before and during the measurement.
Quietly relaxing in a chair for about ten minutes before taking a measurement is useful in getting a precise reading. Sit up straight with your back against the chair, legs uncrossed. For added benefit, select a home monitoring device that offers a Movement Error Symbol that provides a warning if there is excess motion or talking during the measurement.
The positioning of the cuff is imperative for accurate readings. Choose a blood pressure monitor that features a pre-formed cuff for easy use. The proper positioning of the cuff is as follows:
- Remove any tight-fitting clothing from your arm
- Put your left arm through the cuff loop
- The bottom of the cuff should be about one inch (2-3 cm) above your elbow
- Turn your arm so your palm is facing up
- Your arm should rest comfortably at heart level. If the arm artery lies considerably lower or higher than the heart, a false reading may occur
- Adjust the cuff around your arm so that the tubing runs down the center of your arm
- Secure the cuff so it stays in place
Tip #3: Double Check for Accuracy
Each time you measure, take two or three readings to make sure your results are accurate. It is often recommended that you take your blood pressure at the same times each day. For added convenience, purchase a device that provides storage of multiple readings and allows a simple way to view past blood pressure measurements for comparison.
Get the Most Out of Blood Pressure Monitoring
Experts agree that the most important tip in obtaining accurate blood pressure measurements is to use the best available equipment.
Remember, the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to test it regularly. Hypertension usually has no outward warning signs or symptoms, which is why it is often referred to as the “silent killer.”