Tips on How to Use Blood Pressure Monitors Correctly
If you are using a blood pressure machine at home, do you know the best way to use it to obtain regularly accurate readings?
Nearly all pharmacies and medical supply stores websites have home bp monitors in two model types, manual or digital. All monitors have the same essential components, an inflatable cuff or strap, a gauge for readouts and sometimes a stethoscope, depending on the model. The cuff consists of an inner layer made of rubber that fills with air and squeezes your arm. This cuff’s outer layer is generally made from nylon and has a fastener to hold it in place. The gauges on monitors are either digital or aneroid. The aneroid monitors have a gauge with a dial on it that point at a number pertinent to your blood pressure.
A manual blood pressure monitor consists of a stethoscope and an inflatable arm cuff connected by a rubber tube to a gauge that records the pressure. To use these cuff, you pump up the cuff that goes around your arm by pumping a bulb at one end of the tube. You listen for specific benchmark arterial blood sounds your blood makes as it flows through the brachial artery in the crook of your elbow and counts your heartbeat. However, without appropriate training, it is sometimes complicated to interpret those sounds. Digital blood pressure cuffs usually have an internal sensor that records the information for you.
A digital monitor consists of a cuff and a gauge that records the pressure. These machines automatically calculate heart rate and measure your blood pressure. Some even offer you an error message if you are not wearing the cuff correctly. Digital monitors also deflate automatically. Although you can get a digital cuff for your finger or wrist, the one that fits on the upper arm is a little more accurate.
Regardless of what type of home blood pressure monitor you end up picking, proper use requires some practice and training. Take the machine to your doctor or nurse or find a class at your local medical facility and learn how to use the monitor precisely and keep it calibrated.
Here are some tips for using a monitor:
- Have your physician observe how you use the machine so that they can see if you are doing it correctly
- Take your blood pressure at regular times, such as in the morning and the evening.
- Use the same arm whenever you take your blood pressure. Keep in mind that many digital monitors are designed for use only on the left arm.
- Don’t measure your blood pressure immediately after you wake up in the morning. Wait at least an hour. If you do workout after waking, take your blood pressure before exercising.
- Stay away from food, caffeine, tobacco, and alcohol for thirty minutes before taking a measurement.
- Go to the restroom first. A full bladder can increase blood pressure slightly.
- Sit silently for three to five minutes before measurement.
- Sit in a comfortable position with legs and ankles uncrossed and your back supported.
- Rest your arm, raised to the level of your heart, on a table, desk or chair arm.
- Do not talk while taking your blood pressure.
- Place the cuff on bare skin, not over clothing.
- Take a repeat reading two to three minutes after the first one to check accuracy.
- If you have a manual monitor, log blood pressure readings or heart rates in a log book.
- Take the monitor to be calibrated yearly.
- Blood pressure varies throughout the day and is often a bit higher in the morning. Contact your physician if you have any unusual or persistent increases in your blood pressure. If you experience symptoms such as a severe headache, chest pain, numbness or tingling in the face or limbs seeks emergency medical treatment immediately.
- If your blood pressure is well regulated, you may need only check it at home a few days a month but keep in mind that home monitoring is not a substitute for visits to your doctor.