what is the proper way to take your blood pressure?
International hypertension societies recommend taking multiple blood pressure measurements over several days.

International hypertension societies recommend taking multiple blood pressure measurements over several days, under comparable conditions, and at the same time of day (morning and evening), and then calculating the mean value of these measurements.

  • Individual blood pressure is represented by this average value. Even when at rest, blood pressure fluctuates constantly. As a result, doctors and hypertension society advise taking at least two readings each time and averaging the results.
  • A series of measurements provides far more reliable information about blood pressure than a single measurement. Blood pressure averaging methods have long been used by physicians to determine the need for and adjust the treatment of hypertension in their patients. 
  • Your true blood pressure is the average level over time. However, traditionally, averaging has meant either taking the average of specific systolic and diastolic blood pressures from a 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure reading or asking patients with hypertension to take multiple readings at home and averaging those readings.

A growing body of research suggests that taking a series of sequential in-office blood pressure measurements and then averaging those measurements is the most effective method of averaging.

How can I take blood pressure at home?

Blood pressure can be measured at home with minimal effort. If you want to monitor your resting blood pressure at home regularly, an automated or digital blood pressure machine may be useful.

It is always recommended to take blood pressure medications before taking readings. After taking the medications, you should sit quietly for at least 5 to 15 minutes.

  1. Put the cuff around your upper arm
  2. Relax your arm and place it on your knee, the arm of your chair, or a nearby table
  3. Press the blood pressure machine's button to inflate the cuff and sit quietly, without talking (talking can falsely raise the reading)
  4. Make a note of the outcome
  5. After one minute, take a second blood pressure reading and record it as well
  6. Repeat this two times a day for the rest of the week

To get the most accurate results, keep a blood pressure diary for a week, taking blood pressure readings two times a day. 

  • Morning and evening are frequently convenient times to take your blood pressure readings.
  • If you get an unexpectedly high reading, don't be alarmed. A one-time high reading is usually nothing to worry about. Take your blood pressure again at a different time.
  • If it remains high, bring it up at your next clinic appointment.

Four blood pressure categories are depending on where the measurements land.

  1. Normal blood pressure: Systolic below 120 and diastolic below 80 mmHg
  2. Pre-hypertension: Systolic 120 to 139 and diastolic 80 to 89 mmHg
  3. Stage I hypertension: Systolic 140 to 159 and diastolic 90 to 99 mmHg
  4. Stage II hypertension: Systolic 160+ and diastolic 100+ mmHg

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Is systolic blood pressure more important than diastolic blood pressure?

In practice, systolic blood pressure should be prioritized over diastolic blood pressure. However, there is a strong correlation between systolic and diastolic blood pressure in general. Both are significant risk factors for heart disease.

  • Systolic blood pressure is the force generated on the inside of blood vessels when your heart contracts.
  • Diastolic pressure is the pressure placed on your arteries between heartbeats when your heart is relaxed.

According to a recent study, having an abnormally high diastolic or systolic blood pressure is harmful to one's health but for different reasons.

  • A high systolic blood pressure reading increased the risk of heart attack and heart disease. Systolic blood pressure is strongly associated with heart disease and heart failure, as well as kidney disease and overall mortality.
  • A high diastolic reading was linked to an increased risk of disease involving the aorta, a large artery that transports blood and oxygen from the heart to the abdomen and chest. People who had a high diastolic reading were more likely to develop an abdominal aortic aneurysm, which is an enlargement of the aorta. The problem with such an enlargement is that it can cause rupture and death.

High systolic readings were found to be the most predictive of a negative cardiovascular outcome in studies. As a result, they were given greater weight in cardiology guidelines and risk estimation. Having both numbers in a healthy range, however, is beneficial to you and your heart.

The following are some common readings that everyone should be familiar with.

  • Healthy blood pressure: Less than 120/80 mmHg
  • Pre-hypertension: 120/80 to 139/89 mmHg
  • Hypertension: Greater than 140/90 mmHg

Blood pressure readings of 180/120 mmHg or higher are considered dangerously high and necessitate immediate medical attention.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle and take care of yourself if your blood pressure is normal, and you can prevent or delay the onset of high blood pressure or other health problems.

If you find yourself in a higher category, talk to your doctor about setting specific goals to lower your numbers and lower your risk of heart disease. You don't want your heart to work too hard to keep your blood pumping.

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Medically Reviewed on 12/21/2021
References
Image Source: iStock Images

Eguchi K, Kuruvilla S, Ogedegbe G, Gerin W, Schwartz JE, Pickering TG. What is the optimal interval between successive home blood pressure readings using an automated oscillometric device?. J Hypertens. 2009;27(6):1172-1177. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2941726/

Harvard Health Publishing. Tips to measure your blood pressure correctly. https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/tips-to-measure-your-blood-pressure-correctly

Vinyoles E, Vera M, Cecilia M, García-Alfaro M, Fernandez-San-Martin M. Blood pressure measurement: The waiting time between readings: PP.14.18. J Hypertens. 2010;28:e254. https://journals.lww.com/jhypertension/Abstract/2010/06001/Blood_Pressure_Measurement__the_Waiting_Time.703.aspx

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Measure Your Blood Pressure. https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/measure.htm