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Checking your blood pressure at home

Doctors may recommend that some people check their blood pressure at home, in between appointments and check-ups.

This may be because 'white coat syndrome' is suspected where a person's blood pressure is higher during a medical appointment because of the stress of the visit.

In other cases, doctors may want to track blood pressure more often, or to check it isn’t higher at home than during appointments.

Home blood pressure monitoring may be with a person's own machine, or with a special machine that's supplied to be carried round all day for 24 hour 'ambulatory' monitoring.

Tips for checking your own blood pressure

There are certain factors that can cause blood pressure to temporarily rise. For example, blood pressure normally rises as a result of:

  • Stress
  • Smoking
  • Cold temperatures
  • Exercise
  • Caffeine
  • Certain medicines

Try to avoid as many of these factors as you can when taking your blood pressure. Also, try to measure your blood pressure at about the same time each day. Your doctor may want you to check your blood pressure several times during the day to see if your pressure fluctuates.

Before checking your blood pressure

  • Find a quiet place to check your blood pressure. You will need to be relaxed.
  • Make sure that you are comfortable and relaxed with a recently emptied bladder (a full bladder may affect your reading).
  • Roll up the sleeve on your arm or remove any tight-sleeved clothing, if needed.
  • Rest in a chair next to a table for five to 10 minutes. Your arm should rest comfortably at heart level. Sit up straight with your back against the chair, legs uncrossed. Rest your forearm on the table with the palm of your hand facing up.

Step-by-step blood pressure check

If you purchase a digital blood pressure monitor (sphygmomanometer), follow the instruction booklet carefully.

The following steps provide an overview of how to take your left arm blood pressure with a digital blood pressure monitor. Simply reverse the sides to take a blood pressure in your right arm.

  • Thread the cuff end through the metal loop and slide the cuff onto your arm. The cuff may be marked with an arrow to show which way round the cuff should be.  The lower edge of the cuff should be about an inch (2.5cm) above the bend of your elbow. Use the fabric fastener to make the cuff snug, but not too tight.
  • Press the power button. All display symbols should appear briefly, followed by a zero. This indicates that the monitor is ready.
  • To inflate the cuff press the start button.
  • Sit quietly and watch the monitor. Pressure readings will be displayed on the screen. For some devices, values may appear on the left, then on the right.
  • Wait for a long beep. This means that the measurement is complete. Note the pressures on the display screen. Your pulse rate may also be displayed in between or after this reading.
  • Allow the cuff to deflate.

If you did not get an accurate reading, DO NOT inflate the cuff again right away. Wait one minute before repeating the measurement. Start by reapplying the cuff.

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