How to read your blood pressure measurements? 

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, requires regular blood pressure checks. Measure your blood pressure at least twice a day at the same time every day.
Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, requires regular blood pressure checks. Measure your blood pressure at least twice a day at the same time every day.

Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, requires regular blood pressure checks. If you have hypertension, you need to know the best time to test your blood pressure. 

The most appropriate time to get your blood pressure checked depends on a few factors. These include your daily routine, schedule, convenience, the time of the day, and whether you're doing the test at home or at your healthcare professional's office. 

Your blood pressure keeps changing throughout the day. It follows the circadian rhythmic cycle, so your blood pressure is at its peak in the morning. However, it declines during the nighttime when you're resting. 

Blood pressure measurements include two types of numbers. The top one is the systolic number, and the bottom is the diastolic number. The sphygmomanometer measures blood pressure in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). 

If your device says 120/80 mm Hg blood pressure, this means "120 over 80".

The blood pressure readings are divided into five categories. These include:

  • Normal: The standard blood pressure means less than 120 mm Hg systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic (120/80 mm Hg).
  • Elevated: Your blood pressure will be considered elevated if it continuously ranges between 120 to 129 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic readings.
  • High Blood Pressure (Stage 1): The first stage of your increased blood pressure starts from 130 to 139 mm Hg systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic.
  • High Blood Pressure Stage 2: The second stage of your increased blood pressure starts at 140 mm Hg systolic or 90 mm Hg diastolic or higher.
  • Hypertensive Crisis: This is a serious situation that requires immediate medical care. If your blood pressure reading consistently measures higher than 180/120 mm Hg, you're in a hypertensive crisis. You may feel several symptoms at this stage, like chest pain, difficulty breathing and speaking, back pain, weakness, or blurry vision.

Getting blood pressure checked at a healthcare provider's office 

Many people visit a healthcare provider to get their blood pressure measured regularly. These visits are usually scheduled at different times since your blood pressure keeps changing the entire day. 

Checking blood pressure at different times gives your healthcare provider multiple readings. They can monitor your health in various aspects with the help of these measurements, according to the standard blood pressure guidelines. Finally, they conclude all the readings in one report. 

Checking blood pressure at home 

Home blood pressure monitoring is an inexpensive, convenient, and pretty simple process. It is often considered more accurate than testing at a healthcare provider's office. 

There are several advantages associated with home blood pressure checkups, such as:

  • Similar Blood Pressure Measurements: A study found that home blood pressure monitoring gives similar blood pressure measurements as a 24-hour ambulatory monitor. These monitors are considered the gold standard to detect the chances of the person having any heart disease.
  • Eliminates White Coat Effect: Home blood pressure measurements can prevent the chances of the white coat effect. It refers to the situation when your blood pressure rises with the thought of visiting your healthcare provider's office. 
  • Identifies Masked HypertensionHome blood pressure checks also help identify low blood pressure and masked hypertension. It's common when your blood pressure is stable at your healthcare provider's office but suddenly gets higher as you reach home. 
  • Monitor Changes: Your doctor may recommend you to do home blood pressure tests to see if a blood-pressure regulating drug is working on you or not. They may also want to watch out for any changes in your blood levels when you alter your diet

It's important to realize that home blood pressure monitoring isn't a complete substitute for in-office checkups. Your healthcare provider may use both of these readings to understand your situation better. Keep visiting your doctor for regular in-office checkups along with doing at-home blood pressure tests. 

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How to self-monitor your blood pressure 

Self-monitoring your blood pressure at home differs from asking your healthcare provider to perform it. If you're performing a home blood pressure checkup at home, don't forget to follow these tips to increase your chances of getting accurate results:

Measure your blood pressure at least twice a day 

It's normal for your blood pressure to rise or drop at certain times of the day. It is typically high when you wake up and is expected to change by up to 30% throughout the day as you start performing different activities. Many factors affect your blood pressure, including hormonal changes, diet, and activity levels.

Take readings at the same time daily 

Measuring your blood pressure at the same time for a few days should give you the same reading daily. One exception is your workout sessions. There is a chance that your blood pressure checkup routine may take two to three checks in the night and morning. 

Take multiple readings on every check

If you're taking multiple readings, ensure to measure each with a minute gap. To keep your readings saved, record them in a notebook or an online tracker. 

Prepare yourself before recording a measurement

It's recommended not to smoke, exercise, consume caffeine, or eat heavy meals 30 minutes before taking a reading. 

These factors can affect your final measurements. You must also empty your bladder and rest for a few minutes before monitoring your blood pressure at home. 

Choose a convenient time 

If you have a busy schedule, try to adjust your blood pressure checks within it according to your convenience. 

Choose a time that doesn't interrupt your work or conflicts, as these factors may affect your blood pressure. It's better to check your blood pressure before or after coming from the office. 

Do the test while sitting 

Taking blood pressure measurements while standing up may give you inaccurate or higher readings. Always sit in a comfortable chair or couch that supports your back while doing the blood pressure checkup at home. You should also place your arm and feet on flat surfaces for more accurate readings.

If you're not sure about the best time to take blood pressure at home, you can talk to your doctor to have detailed guidance. Taking blood pressure measurements each day helps your healthcare provider see if their prescribed treatment is working or not. 

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Medically Reviewed on 6/23/2022
References
SOURCES:

American Heart Association: "Understanding Blood Pressure Readings."

European Cardiology Review: "Home Blood Pressure Monitoring."

Frontiers in Physiology: "Circadian Rhythm of Blood Pressure of Dipper and Non-dipper Patients With Essential Hypertension: A Mathematical Modeling Approach."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Tips to measure your blood pressure correctly."

Mayo Clinic: "Is white coat hypertension a long-term problem?"