10 Questions (and Answers) About Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home
Here are some tips for checking your blood pressure at home.
1. Why might it be useful to monitor my blood pressure at home?
If your doctor has suggested you monitor your blood pressure at home, he or she likely wants to keep a close eye on it. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can cause serious damage to your body. It puts you at risk of heart attack, stroke and kidney failure - and that's just the short list. Controlling your blood pressure is important, and the only way to know whether it is high is to measure it.
2. Why not just check it when I'm at the doctor's office?
Convenience is one reason. It is easier for you to monitor it at home than it is for you to make frequent trips to your doctor's office. Another reason is that your blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day, every day. So a reading taken at a doctor's office may not be typical of your normal blood pressure. Also, a visit to the doctor's office may cause some people's blood pressure to rise - a condition called "white coat hypertension." Monitoring your blood pressure at home can give you a better idea of your status.
3. Are there some people for whom home monitoring may be especially useful?
Yes. The list includes:
- People whose high blood pressure was recently diagnosed. By checking their blood pressure regularly at home, they can see how their treatment is working.
- People with health conditions that require close monitoring of blood pressure, such as those who have diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease.
- Pregnant women who may be at risk for a serious condition called preeclampsia, or hypertension caused by pregnancy.
- Older adults who may be more prone to white coat hypertension.
4. Where can I buy a home blood pressure monitor?
You can find them at discount drug stores and pharmacies, among other places.
5. How do I know what type is best for me?
Talk with your doctor before you buy a home blood pressure monitor. You also may want to ask a pharmacist to help you choose a model at the store.
6. Is there anything I should look for on the label?
Look for a monitor that is certified to meet international standards. If you are pregnant or overweight, you may want to buy one that is approved for your condition.
7. How can I be sure I am using my monitor correctly?
It is a good idea to take your new monitor to your doctor's office. Your doctor can check the machine for accuracy and show you how to use it correctly.
8. How can I help ensure accurate readings?
Don't smoke, drink caffeinated beverages or exercise 30 minutes before you take a reading. These things can raise your blood pressure. Also always follow all the instructions that come with the unit.
9. How often should I check my blood pressure?
Talk with your doctor. Sometimes once a day or once a week is enough. Or your doctor may want several readings throughout the day to be sure your blood pressure is under control all day long.
10. Do I still need to go to my doctor's office?
Yes. Checking your blood pressure at home is not a substitute for regular doctor visits. Keep all of your appointments, especially if you are under treatment for high blood pressure, diabetes or heart or kidney disease. Even if your blood pressure readings are normal at home, it's still important to visit your doctor. Take a record of your blood pressure readings with you to each appointment.