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Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home

The easiest, most accurate way to check your blood pressure at home.
By Obrad Kokanovic, MD, FACC, FSCAI

What is blood pressure?

As your heart pumps blood in your body it moves against the sides of your blood vessels, supporting the circulation of energy and oxygen. The strength of your blood being pushed through your body is called blood pressure.


How is blood pressure measured? What is normal?  

Blood pressure is measured in two numbers; your systolic and diastolic blood pressure levels.

Your systolic blood pressure is the top number on a reading and measures the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats. Your diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number on a reading and measures the lowest level your blood pressure reaches in between heart beats.

A normal blood pressure ranges between a systolic level (top number) of 120 mm Hg or below and a diastolic level (bottom number) of 80 mm Hg or below.

Category Systolic (mm Hg) Diastolic (mm Hg)
Normal < 120 and < 80
Prehypertension 120 - 139 or 80 - 89
Hypertension Systolic (mm Hg) Diastolic (mm Hg)
Stage 1 140 - 159 or 90 - 99
Stage 2 ≥ 160 or ≥ 100

*Initiation of blood pressure therapy will depend on your age and other clinical factors. The table provided is a general guide of systolic and diastolic levels that we consider in range of normal, prehypertension and hypertension.  


Why is it important to monitor your blood pressure?  

If high blood pressure runs in your family or your blood pressure tends to run high, it is important to monitor your levels. More often than not, high blood pressure does not have symptoms, so regularly monitoring your levels is the safest way to ensure that high blood pressure is not silently causing you damage and threatening your health.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is when your blood vessels are working harder and less efficient than they should be. Hypertension can cause damage to artery tissues and raise your risk of health conditions such as a heart failure, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and more.


How can I monitor my blood pressure at home?

You can get your blood pressure checked at your doctor’s office, but if you have a history of high blood pressure or would like to monitor your levels on your own time, there are several ways to do so from home.

To manually check your blood pressure without using a machine, you will need to purchase a stethoscope, blood pressure cuff with a squeezable balloon and an aneroid monitor, which has a numbered dial to read measurements.

The easiest and most accurate way to check your blood pressure at home is to buy an automated arm or wrist monitor. When using an automated arm or wrist monitor, you should be sitting down with your legs uncrossed in an upright position, breathing regularly and relaxed. Following the instructions, you will place the cuff on your arm or wrist, depending on the type of monitor, and breathe normally as the cuff tightens to measure your blood pressure. Some monitors require you to manually inflate the cuff and others will do so automatically, in either case, the blood pressure monitor will come with a clear list of instructions for you to follow.  After the process, the cuff will deflate from your arm or wrist and your blood pressure will be displayed on the screen of the monitor.


When should I see my primary care physician?

If your blood pressure is higher than usual or you have reason to believe you aren’t getting an accurate reading from your monitor, you should schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. In some cases, your primary care physician will refer you to a cardiologist who can help manage and treat your high blood pressure.

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Topics and Subtopics: General Health, Heart Health & Senior's Health

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