As an indicator of overall cardiovascular health, your blood pressure reading may be second to none. And research continues to affirm that the best place to measure it may be in your own home. Longtime Medical Mailbox readers know that it is normal for blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day. We encourage regular use of automatic BP monitors at home to help detect hypertension and track the effectiveness of treatment…
Data show that measurements recorded at the same times and place each day are often lower than readings taken in the doctor’s office and closer to the average BP recorded by 24-hour ambulatory monitoring, which is considered the gold standard. Home blood pressure monitoring also helps distinguish between “white coat” (elevated readings in the doctor’s office only), “masked” (elevated readings at home only), and sustained hypertension.
An expert group of cardiovascular physicians and nurses recently published a “Call to Action” for using home blood pressure monitors, including an appeal for insurance providers to cover the cost of the devices. The American Heart Association offers these tips for getting reliable BP readings at home:
- Your healthcare professional should help you select a cuff-style upper arm monitor, make sure it’s accurate, and show you how to use it.
- Cuff size is important. To get the right one, measure around your upper arm and compare to the cuff size indicated on the monitor’s packaging.
- Sit with your back straight and supported on a high-backed dining chair, rather than a sofa. Both feet should be flat on the floor, with arm resting on a flat surface and the upper arm at heart level.
- Each time you measure, take two to three readings one minute apart. Record all the results.
To download and print a blood pressure log from the American Heart Association, visit their website americanheart.org and search for “blood pressure tracker.” For a paper version to copy as needed, send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to BP Tracker, 1100 Waterway Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46202.