Curious about how to test your blood pressure, but don’t know where to start? We’ve got you covered.
Your healthcare providers are likely checking your blood pressure each time you go in for a visit, but it is helpful to keep tabs on your blood pressure at home. This not only gives you get a better understanding of your blood pressure, but also helps your provider determine if treatments are working. Studies also suggest that home testing helps people keep their blood pressure under better control, which is important for so many aspects of health. Home testing shouldn’t take the place of regular office visits, but it’s great additional information for you and your provider.
There are a few ways to start testing your blood pressure.
The provider office. You are likely already getting tested when you go see your doctor or other healthcare provider! Ask them write it down (or keep it stored in your memory) so you can enter it in Brook later.
Get a cuff. You can buy a blood pressure cuff to have with you at home to use at your leisure. Automatic devices are much easier for the home user to operate, no stethoscope required!
At the store. Go to your local pharmacy/store that has a blood pressure measuring machine. These are often free and easy to use.
Head to the fire department. Testing is free to the public. Check your local station for information, and to see what days they offer testing.
While home testing is simple, there are some “best practices” to make sure you get the most accurate reading. Here are the basics to home testing, recommended by the American Heart Association.
Get calm – make sure you’ve been sitting for at least 5 minutes before taking your reading. Avoid smoking, drinking caffeine, or exercise in the 30 minutes prior to measuring, and hit the restroom to make sure your bladder is empty. Not sure how to fit this in? Try taking your readings first thing in the morning (before that first cup of coffee), this will ensure that you are well-rested and calm.
Proper posture – sitting upright and supported will provide you with the best reading (a dining chair does the trick better than the sofa). Keep your legs uncrossed with feet flat on the floor and rest your arm on a flat surface.
Aim for regularity – to best track your blood pressure over time, take your readings at the same time each day. While testing frequency recommendations varies from person to person, daily readings are especially helpful in the two weeks following any changes in your treatment or medication and for one week prior to any scheduled healthcare visits.
Check it twice – check your blood pressure two the three times each time you sit down for a reading. Space each reading one minute apart and keep a record of the results. Luckily Brook makes it easy for you to keep all of your logging information in one place!
Bare it all – don’t take your blood pressure readings over clothing. You’ll get the most reliable reading with the cuff placed on bare skin.
Keep in mind that wrist and finger monitors are not the most reliable devices, so a cuff is the way to go. Make sure it fits properly around your upper arm, and purchase a validated device (your doctor or pharmacist can point you in the right direction).
Tracking your progress by keeping a log of your data is the best way to see how you are doing and if you are improving. It can help you discover what’s working and what’s not so you can inform your decisions around food, exercise, and meds.
Brook allows you to log your blood pressure readings anytime, anywhere, all from the comfort of your smartphone.
Reviewed by Emily Matson, MS, RDN
on February 20, 2020. Emily is a Registered Dietitian with her Master's degree in Nutrition from Bastyr University in Kenmore, WA, and is one of our Brook Experts.