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Home > Health Library > Home Blood Pressure Test
Using a home blood pressure monitor lets you keep track of your blood pressure at home. Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries as it moves through your body.
Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers.
Someone with a systolic pressure of 120 and a diastolic pressure of 80 has a blood pressure of 120/80, or "120 over 80." Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
Most people use an automatic monitor to measure their blood pressure at home. These are also called electronic or digital monitors. They have a microphone to detect blood pulsing in the artery. The cuff wraps around your upper arm. It automatically inflates when you press the start button.
This is the type of blood pressure monitor most often found in supermarkets, drugstores, and shopping malls.
Monitors used on the wrist aren't as reliable as those that use arm cuffs. Wrist monitors should be used only by people who can't use arm cuffs for physical reasons. And devices that use finger monitors aren't recommended at all.
Manual models are like the ones that might be used in your doctor's office. They usually include an arm cuff, a squeeze bulb to inflate the cuff, a stethoscope or microphone, and a gauge to measure the blood pressure.
To take your blood pressure, you inflate the cuff around your upper arm. This stops the flow of blood in the artery for a short time. You place the stethoscope on the skin over the artery. As you release air from the cuff, you listen for the sound of the blood as it starts to flow through the artery again.
The reading on the gauge when blood flow is first heard is the systolic pressure. The reading when blood flow can no longer be heard is the diastolic pressure.
An ambulatory blood pressure monitor is a small device that you wear throughout the day, usually for 24 or 48 hours. It takes your blood pressure automatically.
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You may check your blood pressure at home to:
After measuring your blood pressure, your doctor may ask you to test it again when you are home.footnote 1footnote 2 This is because your blood pressure can change throughout the day. And sometimes blood pressure is high only because you are seeing a doctor. This is called white-coat hypertension. To diagnose high blood pressure, your doctor needs to know if your blood pressure is high throughout the day.
So your doctor may ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home to make sure that it actually is high. You may get an ambulatory blood pressure monitor or a home blood pressure monitor. These devices measure your blood pressure several times throughout the day.
You do not need to do anything to prepare. The monitor will automatically take your blood pressure while you do your normal daily activities.
Try to use the same arm for every reading. Readings may be 10 to 20 mm Hg different between your right arm and your left arm.
Ask your doctor:
At first it is a good idea to take your blood pressure 3 times in a row, 5 or 10 minutes apart. As you get more used to taking your own blood pressure, you will only need to measure it once or twice each time.
The instructions may vary depending upon the type of blood pressure monitor you choose. Here are some general guidelines:
If you have an automatic monitor, follow the instructions that came with it. When you press the start button, the cuff will inflate automatically. The cuff will then deflate and the numbers on the screen will begin to drop. When the measurement is complete, your monitor displays your blood pressure and pulse rate.
To learn more about using automatic and manual monitors, see:
You may feel some discomfort when the blood pressure cuff inflates, squeezing your arm.
There is no chance of problems from this test.
Your systolic and diastolic pressures are both important. Your doctor will give you a goal for your blood pressure. Your goal will be based on your health and your age.
It's normal for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day. Your doctor may want to track the results of your blood pressure over time to see if it stays in a high or low range.
In general, the lower your blood pressure, the better. For example, a blood pressure reading of less than 90/60 is healthy as long as you feel okay. Talk to your doctor if you have low blood pressure and feel lightheaded, faint, or like you may vomit.
It is normal for blood pressure to go up and down from day to day and even from moment to moment. Stress, smoking, eating, exercise, cold, pain, noise, medicines, and even talking can affect it.
One high reading does not mean you have high blood pressure. And one normal reading may not mean you do not have high blood pressure. It is more accurate to take the average of several readings made throughout the day than to rely on a single reading.
Some people have high blood pressure only when they go to their doctor's office. This is called white-coat hypertension. It may be caused by stress about seeing your doctor. When you regularly check your blood pressure at home, you may find that your blood pressure is lower when you are not at the doctor's office.
Do not adjust your blood pressure medicines based on home blood pressure readings unless your doctor tells you to.
Whelton PK, et al. (2017). Guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published online November 13, 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.006. Accessed November 20, 2017.
U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (2015). Hypertension in adults: Screening and home monitoring: Final recommendation statement. http://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/high-blood-pressure-in-adults-screening. Accessed January 21 , 2016.
Other Works Consulted
American Heart Association. (2005). Recommendations for blood pressure measurement in humans and experimental animals. Part 1: Blood pressure measurement in humans. AHA Scientific Statement. Hypertension, 45(1): 142–161.
Pickering TG, et al. (2008). Call to action on use and reimbursement for home blood pressure monitoring. A joint scientific statement from the American Heart Association, American Society of Hypertension, and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association. Hypertension, 52(1): 10–29.
Current as of:
December 16, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineKathleen Romito MD - Family MedicineAdam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Current as of: December 16, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
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