There are wrong ways and right ways to measure your blood pressure. Watch Harvard Heart Letter Editor Patrick Skerrett demonstrate both.
QuickTime movie [3.6 MB]
Buy a monitor that meets the test
There are dozens of home blood pressure monitors on the market. You can buy a good one at your local pharmacy or a big-box store for anywhere between $40 and $100.
The American Heart Association recommends using the type with a cuff that fits around your upper arm. Those that go around the wrist or attach to a finger aren't quite as accurate. Not all home blood pressure monitors pass tests for accuracy and reliability. Independent evaluations have been done by the dabl Educational Trust, the British Hypertension Society, and the Consumers Union (which publishes Consumer Reports). Each has posted or published its list of trustworthy machines. You can find these in the Resources section below.
Do it right!
In addition to using a home blood pressure monitor the right way, here are other tips to help you get the most accurate measurements of your blood pressure:
- If you smoke or drink coffee, wait at least 30 minutes after having a cigarette or cup of coffee before taking your blood pressure.
- Sit quietly for a few minutes before beginning.
- After taking your blood pressure, relax for a minute and then do it again.
- At first, take your blood pressure twice a day for a week. The best times of day are early in the morning, before you have taken your blood pressure pills, and again in the evening. After you've done this for a week, once or twice a month—or whatever your doctor recommends—is fine.
- Don't panic if one or two readings are higher than usual. Blood pressure changes throughout the day, sometimes from minute to minute. It's the trend that's important.
- Finally, share the results with your doctor.
- Consumer Reports rated the ReliOn HEM-74CREL ($50) as a "Best Buy" and gave its top rating to the Omron Elite 7300W ($75 to $100) in the September 2008 issue of Consumer Reports. Other top choices were the CVS By Microlife Advanced Automatic kit #344534 ($100) and the Omron HEM-711A ($90). A complete list is available in the magazine. Subscribers can access the list online.
- dabl Educational Trust (free)
- British Hypertension Society (free)