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How to Get Best Results for Blood Pressure at Home

Natalie Stein
October 22, 2020
taking blood pressure at home

Home blood pressure monitoring is an important part of a plan to manage hypertension. However, it can be frustrating if readings are inaccurate. With some planning and guidance, you can make sure you are getting your best blood pressure results at home! This way, they will reflect the hard work you are putting in, or may show that you need a little change in your medications or lifestyle.

Planning Ahead

First, determine when you will measure your blood pressure. Measuring at the same time each day can help make the reading more consistent, so that any deviations will be easier to notice. A good time of day for many people may be in the morning before breakfast.

30 Minutes Before

Certain things can raise blood pressure, so it is best to avoid them within 30 minutes of taking your blood pressure at home. 

Finish exercising. Systolic blood pressure (the blood pressure number on top) normally increases during physical activity to about 160 to 220 mm Hg. That would be an alarming number to see on a home blood pressure test! Blood pressure returns to normal after you rest for a bit. If you can, plan to finish exercising 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure. Or, just take your blood pressure before you start exercising. 

Lay off the coffee.

The jolt of energy that you get from caffeinated coffee raises heart rate, increases alertness, and bumps up blood pressure by several points. It is best to avoid consuming caffeine within 30 minutes of taking blood pressure. If you are taking blood pressure at home in the morning, you might as well just wait until after you are done before you hit the coffee. Caffeinated beverages include coffee, black and green tea, and some energy drinks, as well as many colas and other soft drinks. 

Skip the cigarette. 

Smoking and tobacco use raise blood pressure by about 10 to 15 mm Hg. If you use tobacco, you can get a more accurate reading by avoiding it for at least 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure.

Stop Eating.

Blood pressure can go up or down after eating a meal. It can increase during digestion as the digestive system needs more oxygen to carry out its functions. High-sodium foods can lead to water retention and higher blood volume. As a result, that raises blood pressure, and high-fat foods can make the blood thicker, increasing blood pressure. However, some people get a drop in blood pressure after eating. 

If you want an accurate measurement, it may be best to avoid eating within 30 minutes of taking the measurement. If possible, taking it while fasting, such as in the morning before waking up, or 2 hours after eating, may be better.

A Few Minutes Before

Set aside about 5 to 10 minutes to measure blood pressure at home. That gives you time to get into the right position, relax, and take the measurement.

Get comfortable.

Use the bathroom if you need to before taking blood pressure. A full bladder can raise blood pressure by over 10 points. In addition, you may want to adjust the thermostat or put on a sweater if you are cold. Being cold can raise blood pressure, too. 

Put the cuff on.

A properly sized cuff should be placed directly on the skin, not over clothes. 

Get into position.

Sitting comfortably in a chair with the back supported, feet flat on the floor, and legs uncrossed, help prevent an inaccurately high reading. The arm that will be used for the measurement should be resting on a table or desk slightly above the level of the heart.

Relax. 

Once you are settled, it is best to wait about 5 minutes before taking the measurement to give yourself time to relax. While waiting, you can practice visualization, such as thinking about all your hard work to manage blood pressure, or think other positive thoughts to stay calm. 

While Measuring

Most of the work is done, but you still need to take the measurement. This is when it is important to stay focused!

Stay still.

From the time you start the measurement until the time the machine gives you the reading, it is important not to move. That includes talking, since chatting can increase blood pressure by several points.

Following Up

Once the measurement has been taken, it is important to make sure that it is recorded. You may need to write down the date, time, and value, but most blood pressure machines will store that information for a while. 

If you are using a program such as Lark, your machine may automatically send the value to Lark, or you can enter it manually. That way, you can get better coaching on blood pressure management. Lark can detect trends in blood pressure, such as increases or decreases over time, and suggest steps to take that can help you reach blood pressure goals. Small changes can make significant differences in blood pressure management.

Author
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health