Using a home blood pressure monitor
If you have purchased a home blood pressure monitor then you need to know how to use it and when to use it.
When do you take a blood pressure reading?
This very much depends upon your blood pressure. But, your GP or practice nurse will be able to advise you when and how to take a blood pressure reading.
Start by monitoring your blood pressure very closely, then less often but still on a regular basis.
Take a reading in the morning and then another one in the evening and do this each day for the first week. Make sure that you take these readings at the same time each day so that you get a consistent reading.
At the end of that week you will understand what your blood pressure is.
It is a good idea to ignore the first day’s readings as these are likely to be inaccurate, due to the fact that you are unfamiliar with your blood pressure monitor.
After the first week, reduce your readings, for example to once a week but ask your GP or practice nurse first.
Try and stick to a routine with this. The only difference is if you are given a new type of medication or a higher dosage of an existing medication. Then, take a series of readings over a period of several weeks to review the effect of your medication.
What to do before a blood pressure reading
There are a few steps to take before you take a blood pressure reading. These are:
- Do not eat a large meal or have caffeine within 30 minutes before taking a blood pressure reading. So avoid that cup of coffee!
- Visit the bathroom beforehand as a full bladder will affect the reading.
- Wear a t-shirt or a short sleeved top so that it is easier to fit the cuff around your arm.
- Use the same arm each time you take a reading. It is a good idea to use the same arm that your GP or practice nurse would use.
- Sit down and relax for about 5 minutes before taking a reading. If you have been rushing around at home then give yourself time to collect yourself before you do.
- Sit down at a desk or table to take the reading. Place the monitor on the table and rest your arm on top.
- Wrap the cuff around your arm and ensure that it is halfway between your shoulder and elbow (it should be level with your heart).
You are now ready to take a reading. Keep a pen and paper to hand to note down the reading.
Taking a blood pressure reading
Take a deep breath and follow these steps:
- Make sure that the cuff is fitted snugly against your arm. Check with the set of instructions that will have accompanied your blood pressure monitor.
- Sit still and do not move or talk to anyone as this will affect the reading. Take the reading in a quiet area within your house and away from your family.
- Take a reading. Wait for two minutes and then take another reading. Then wait again and take a third reading. Then calculate the average. Note: to measure the average, add the readings together and divide by the number of them (e.g. 3). So add three sets of numbers together and divide by 3.
- You will find that your first reading is higher then the second reading and the third. If you notice this, then carry on taking readings until they stop dropping and level out.
- Record your reading on paper or on an electronic spreadsheet.
It may feel awkward to start with but you will quickly fall into the routine of checking your blood pressure.
Here are a few tips for taking a blood pressure reading which you may find useful:
- Do not take a blood pressure reading too often.
- Do not be alarmed if you get a very high reading. It is possible to get a high reading which is usually a one off but if it persists then speak to your GP.
- Keep accurate records of your readings. Do not be tempted to round the readings up or down.
When using a home blood pressure monitor, do this in conjunction with your GP or practice nurse. Show them the type of monitor you are using and ask their advice if you need to.
Try not to become obsessive about taking a blood pressure reading. It is easy to become anxious about the slightest change in your blood pressure which can be counterproductive in that the anxiety will cause it to rise even more. Stick to your routine and ask for advice if necessary.
Home blood pressure monitoring is one of several useful methods for checking blood pressure. But there are other tests which your GP can employ to help him/her decide upon a suitable course of treatment. These are discussed in the next section.
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