Did your doctor recently suggest checking your blood pressure regularly? Or do you want to check your blood pressure because you have a strong family history of hypertension? No matter the reason, portable blood pressure monitors are useful to have in your home. They can give quick, accurate readings that you can share with your doctor.
Generally, blood pressure monitoring at home is useful for:
- People who have a risk for high blood pressure or have a family history of high blood pressure
- Anyone already diagnosed with hypertension or high blood pressure
- Pregnant women — especially those experiencing preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension
- Checking false readings — such as your blood pressure is only elevated when you’re at the doctor’s office
- Or the opposite, people who have lower readings at the doctor’s office but higher at home
Keeping track of your blood pressure at home can provide useful trends and information about your health. Yet, how do you know what type of blood pressure monitor to choose? The following information will help you make the right decision for your health needs.
Different Types of Blood Pressure Monitors
When it comes to arm monitors, there are two types. These are aneroid monitors and digital monitors. Aneroid monitors wrap around your upper arm and squeeze the bulb to inflate the cuff. Once the cuff is sufficiently tightened, the air is slowly released, and the gauge is read when you hear the blood flowing back into the arteries. These are commonly what people think of when people hear blood pressure monitors. They are also found in most doctor’s offices.
The second type is a digital blood pressure monitor. The cuff either inflates itself or you inflate it, but the reading appears on a small screen. You don’t have to listen for the sound of blood rushing back into the arteries. These are simple to use in your home, which is why they are preferred over the aneroid monitors.
Wrist monitors are also an option; however, they are less accurate. Yet, if you cannot take your blood pressure on your upper arm, then a wrist monitor is a decent second choice.
Check the Cuff
The size of the blood pressure cuff is important. Oftentimes, blood pressure monitors come with different sizes ranging from small to extra large. Check to see what sizes are available when purchasing your blood pressure monitor. If the cuff doesn’t fit properly, then your blood pressure readings may be inaccurate.
The following are guidelines when it comes to sizing adult blood pressure cuffs:
- Adult small — circumference of 22 to 26 cm; or 8.5 to 10 inches
- Adult average — circumference of 27 to 34 centimeters; or 10.5 to 13 inches
- Adult large — circumference of 35 to 44 centimeters; or 13.5 to 17 inches
Remember, this is a general guideline. If your arm is bigger or smaller, adjust the cuff size accordingly for a more accurate blood pressure reading.
Some digital blood pressure monitors come with bluetooth connectivity to store your readings in the cloud. This is not a necessity as you can always write down your blood pressure on pen and paper, which is a cheaper option. However, if you tend to lose things or misplace the paper often, then having that backup data stored in the cloud is a good option for you.
Tips for Taking Your Blood Pressure at Home
The cuff on the upper arm should be about the level of your heart. An easy way to do this is to rest your arm on a table nearby. This helps keep your arm steady and positions the cuff properly.
Remember, do not raise your arm in the air. Your arm should be relatively relaxed, rested, and still near you. Furthermore, the best time to take your blood pressure is when you are relaxed and quiet. If you take your blood pressure after exercise or a heated argument, then you may get a higher reading than if you were in a naturally relaxed state.
Your blood pressure can be taken in the morning before medication, or it can also be taken an hour after taking your blood pressure medication to make sure the medication is working properly. Once your blood pressure is under control, you can check it once a week instead of every day.
Why You Should Bring Your Monitor to Your Next Doctor’s Appointment
Bringing your digital blood pressure monitor to your doctor’s appointment will help check for accuracy. Check your monitor against the doctor’s and if the top number (systolic blood pressure) is within 10 points, then you are generally fine. The life span of blood pressure monitors is generally two to three years, so check your monitor annually to ensure its accuracy. If the accuracy stops after a few years, then it is time to get a new one.
Things to Ask Your Doctor
While you are at your doctor’s appointment, it would be a good time to ask a few questions related to the blood pressure monitor. These include:
- What time of day is most useful to check the blood pressure?
- We are having trouble checking blood pressure every day; could we check it less often?
- Is once a week okay to check blood pressure, or should we do it more often?
- Do you feel unsteady or fall often? Ask your doctor if this could be a sign of blood pressure issues?
- Should the blood pressure be checked in sitting and standing positions?
Your doctor will be able to give you personalized instruction on how to use your monitor, what time of the day is best for you, and talk about any specific conditions you have related to your blood pressure.
Choose the Right Monitor for You
Now that you have a basic understanding of at-home blood pressure monitors, it is time to find the one that is right for you.