There are two reasons why you may need to self-monitor your blood pressure: you may simply want to keep tabs on it, or your doctor may have instructed you to do so. If you’re making lifestyle changes or taking medication to reduce your blood pressure, it can help to track your progress and make some long term goals.
In fact, patients who self-monitor their blood pressure are often more successful in achieving their blood pressure goals.
You may be one of those people whose blood pressure increases every time they walk into a hospital, a condition called “white-coat hypertension”, and so self-monitoring can give you a better picture of how your blood pressure is when not in the presence of a medical professional.
There are plenty of blood pressure monitor reviews online, however it’s best to understand what they do and how they work before researching which model is right for you.
How do blood pressure monitors work?
Blood pressure monitors are also known as sphygmomanometers. Their components include an inflatable cuff that is wrapped around the arm at around heart height, as well as a monitoring device that measures the pressure of the cuff.
The blood pressure monitor measures two pressures: diastolic and systolic. Systolic pressure is higher, occurring when the heart beats and delivers blood throughout the arteries. Diastolic pressure is measured when the heart is refilling with blood and resting. A person’s blood pressure, for example, may read at 120 over 80.
Blood pressure monitors can be digital or manual, but home monitors are typically digital. The whole measurement process is automatic apart from where the user places the cuff around their arm.
The cuff then inflates until it provides a tight fit around the arm. It cuts off blood flow before the valve opens to deflate it. The cuff then reaches your systolic pressure and blood begins to flow around the artery. The meter then detects a vibration which records your systolic blood pressure. In more antiquated analogue blood pressure monitors, the doctor would use a stethoscope to detect the blood sounds.
The cuff continues to deflate and reaches your diastolic blood pressure. The vibration will stop, allowing the meter to sense its stopping and record your pressure once again.
Steps for taking blood pressure readings
Taking a person’s blood pressure reading requires some preparation and planning, though it will become easy once you get the hang of it. There are a few things to remember:
- It’s important to relax before taking a blood pressure reading. Exercise a little beforehand and avoid caffeinated drinks. Sit comfortably with your back supported and your feet flat on the floor.
- Maintain correct arm positioning, resting it on a flat surface with your upper arm at heart level.
- Ensure the cuff is properly positioned with the bottom edge just above the elbow.
When you may need to check your blood pressure
Your doctor will provide you with sound advice on when you should take your readings. However, to maintain consistency, it’s a good idea to ensure you are taking the readings at roughly the same time each day.
Take multiple readings at one time with a two minute break in between. Calculate the average reading to make the figures more representative of your overall blood pressure. If your blood pressure monitor doesn’t archive readings, be sure to have the same notebook handy so you can quickly equate and evaluate your readings.