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Publication #FCS8882

Healthy Living: Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home1

Karla P. Shelnutt2

Do you think your blood pressure may be too high? Have you been diagnosed with high blood pressure (called hypertension)? In either case, you should monitor your blood pressure at home and get it checked at the doctor’s office. This can help your doctor determine if you have high blood pressure or if your treatment plan is working. Read on to learn how to monitor your blood pressure at home.

Figure 1. 
[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

How to Check

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an approved automatic cuff-style upper arm monitor to check your blood pressure (AHA, 2012a). Follow these AHA guidelines to ensure an accurate reading (AHA, 2012b):

  1. Make sure the cuff fits.

  2. Don’t smoke, drink caffeinated beverages, or exercise within 30 minutes of measuring blood pressure.

  3. Sit with your back straight and supported.

  4. Place your feet flat on the floor.

  5. Support your arm on a flat surface such as a table with your upper arm at heart level.

  6. Wrap the cuff around your upper arm.

  7. Take two or three readings one minute apart and record all results.

  8. Take readings at the same time each day.

What Do the Numbers Mean?

You may notice that your blood pressure varies throughout the day. This is normal and why you should take your readings at the same time every day. The AHA has different categories for blood pressure to help you know what your numbers mean (see Table 1).

Table 1. 

Blood pressure categories from the American Heart Assocation

Category

Systolic1

(mm Hg)

 

Diastolic2

(mm Hg)

Normal

<120

and

<80

Prehypertension

120–139

or

80–89

       

High

     

Stage 1

140–159

or

90–99

Stage 2

>160

or

>100

1 Systolic pressure is represented by the top number in your blood pressure reading. This number is the higher of the two numbers and measures pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, or during the contraction of the heart muscle (AHA, 2012c).

2 Diastolic pressure is represented by the bottom number in your blood pressure reading. This number is the lower of the two numbers and measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats, or when the heart muscle is at rest and the heart is refilling with blood (AHA, 2012c).

Keep a log of your readings and take it to every doctor visit. This allows your doctor to keep track of your blood pressure and change your treatment plan if needed. Use the log on the next page (Table 2) and make copies as necessary.

Figure 2. 
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Table 2. 

Blood pressure log

Date/time

Blood Pressure

Notes

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     

References

American Heart Association. (2012a). Choosing a home blood pressure monitor. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofHighBloodPressure/Choosing-a-Home-Blood-Pressure-Monitor_UCM_303322_Article.jsp.

American Heart Association. (2012b). How to monitor and record your blood pressure. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofHighBloodPressure/How-to-Monitor-and-Record-Your-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303323_Article.jsp

American Heart Association. (2012c). Understanding blood pressure readings. Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp.

Footnotes

1.

La versión en español de este documento es Vida Saludable: Monitorsando la presión arterial desde la casa (FCS8882-Span). This document is FCS8882, one in a series of the Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension. First published: November 2009. Latest revision: November 2013. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Karla P. Shelnutt, PhD, RD, assistant professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.


The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.