Home Blood Pressure Test: About This Test

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What is it?

A home blood pressure test allows you to keep track of your blood pressure at home. Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure readings include two numbers, such as 130/80 (say "130 over 80"). The first number is the systolic pressure. The second number is the diastolic pressure.

Why is this test done?

You may do this test at home to:

  • Find out if you have high blood pressure.
  • Track your blood pressure if you have high blood pressure.
  • Track how well medicine is working to reduce high blood pressure.
  • Check how lifestyle changes, such as weight loss and exercise, are affecting blood pressure.

How can you prepare for the test?

  • Do not use caffeine, tobacco, or medicines known to raise blood pressure (such as nasal decongestant sprays) for at least 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure.
  • Do not exercise for at least 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure.

What happens before the test?

Take your blood pressure while you feel comfortable and relaxed. Sit quietly with both feet on the floor for at least 5 minutes before the test.

What happens during the test?

  • Sit with your arm slightly bent and resting on a table so that your upper arm is at the same level as your heart.
  • Roll up your sleeve or take off your shirt to expose your upper arm.
  • Wrap the blood pressure cuff around your upper arm so that the lower edge of the cuff is about 2.5 centimetres above the bend of your elbow.

Proceed with the following steps depending on if you are using a manual or electronic pressure monitor.

Manual blood pressure monitors

  • Place the earpieces of a stethoscope in your ears, and place the bell of the stethoscope over the artery, just below the cuff.
  • Close the valve on the rubber inflating bulb.
  • Squeeze the bulb rapidly with your opposite hand to inflate the cuff until the dial or column of mercury reads about 30 mm Hg higher than your usual systolic pressure. If you do not know your usual pressure, inflate the cuff to 210 mm Hg or until the pulse at your wrist disappears.
  • Open the pressure valve just slightly by twisting or pressing the valve on the bulb.
  • As you watch the pressure slowly fall, note the level on the dial at which you first start to hear a pulsing or tapping sound through the stethoscope. This is your systolic blood pressure.
  • Continue letting the air out slowly. The sounds will become muffled and will finally disappear. Note the pressure when the sounds completely disappear. This is your diastolic blood pressure. Let out all the remaining air.
  • Write your numbers in your log book, along with the date and time.

Electronic blood pressure monitors

  • Press the on/off button on the electronic monitor and wait until the ready-to-measure "heart" symbol appears next to zero in the display window.
  • Press the start button. The cuff will inflate and deflate by itself.
  • Your blood pressure numbers will appear on the screen.
  • Write your numbers in your log book, along with the date and time.

What else should you know about the test?

Results for adults ages 18 and older (mm Hg):

  • Low risk (ideal): Systolic 120 or below. Diastolic 80 or below.
  • Medium risk (high-normal blood pressure): Systolic 121 to 139. Diastolic 80 to 89.
  • High risk (hypertension): Systolic 140 or above. Diastolic 90 or above.

When you take your own blood pressure at home, you may be more relaxed than when you are in the doctor's office. When you are relaxed, your blood pressure may not be as high. A home blood pressure reading of systolic 135 or more and diastolic 85 or more means high blood pressure (hypertension).

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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