How to choose a blood pressure monitor and measure your blood pressure at home
Find out how to choose a reliable blood pressure monitor so you can measure your blood pressure at home.
What is a normal blood pressure reading?
A normal blood pressure reading is below 140/90, but if you have heart or circulatory disease, diabetes or kidney disease, your blood pressure should ideally be less than 130/80.
If you want to monitor your blood pressure at home, it can be a good idea to get a blood pressure machine that lets you keep a track of your blood pressure readings at times that are suitable for you, in the comfort of your own home.
How to choose a home blood pressure monitor
If you decide to take your blood pressure at home, you will need to get a home blood pressure monitor. There is a wide range of home blood pressure monitors available, but it is important to be sure that the blood pressure monitor you choose is accurate and the right one for you.
- Ask your doctor: If your doctor asks you to measure your blood pressure at home or to wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor in order to diagnose hypertension, they will provide a monitor that you can borrow for a set period of time.
- Buy a monitor with an upper cuff: If you are buying a home blood pressure monitor, choose one that measures your blood pressure at your upper arm, not your wrist or finger. The cheapest ones start from £10 and are available in most local pharmacies and larger supermarkets.
- Make sure the cuff is the right size for your arm: Make sure you have the right cuff size for your arm. It should wrap snugly around your upper arm, with just enough space to slide two fingertips underneath. Most home blood pressure monitors will come with a medium-sized cuff. If your upper arm is particularly larger or smaller than average, you may need to buy a different sized cuff separately.
- Make sure it’s UK approved: If you are buying a blood pressure monitor, make sure it is approved for use in the UK. To make sure your monitor is accurate, choose one that has been listed as validated for accuracy by the British and Irish Hypertension Society (BIHS). This means that the digital monitor has gone through a series of tests to make sure it gives results that you and your doctor can trust.
- Make sure you get it serviced every 2 years: It needs to be regularly serviced and calibrated to make sure it is accurate – generally, at least once every two years. This usually involves sending it back to the manufacturer, who will probably charge a fee for this. If this option is too complicated or expensive it may be easier and cheaper to buy a new monitor.
Some monitors will have a memory to store your readings. These may cost more than more basic versions, but recording your measurements on a pen and paper will work just as well.
How to check your blood pressure using a blood pressure machine
- In order for it to be an accurate reading it’s important that you’re resting and that you’re not feeling anxious or stressed.
- Sit upright in a chair, your back against the back of the chair, and place your feet flat on the floor.
- Rest your arm on a table if you have one and just make sure your hand and arm are relaxed on the table. It’s important that you don’t clench your fist when you’re taking your blood pressure.
- Place the cuff over your upper arm and tighten the cuff over your arm, making sure you can fit two fingers underneath the cuff. You want the cuff to be over the upper part of your arm with the tubing leading down the centre or slightly to the right of your arm.
- When you check your blood pressure, don’t talk and just relax. Press the on button, and then press the start button.
- You’ll feel the cuff inflate quite rapidly. It may temporarily be a bit tender or uncomfortable for, as the cuff inflates and deflates automatically, but this will only be for a short period of time. If it is too tender/uncomfortable you can just press the ‘Stop’ button and the cuff will instantly deflate.
- Once you get your reading, make a note of the reading. Some blood pressure machines now come with a printer. This allows you to stick your print outs in your diary.
- A few minutes after you’ve taken your blood pressure, it’s a good idea to check it again, to make sure the readings are similar and accurate.
- If you’ve been asked by your GP or nurse to check your blood pressure, take it twice a day – morning and evening – and then make an appointment to see him or her to discuss the results.
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