How to Read and Use a Digital Blood Pressure Monitor
There are four levels of blood pressure:
- Stage 1 hypertension
- Stage 2 hypertension
On your blood pressure monitor, you’ll notice two different numbers: the systolic and the diastolic numbers. The CDC states that the first number (systolic) measures the pressure in your vessels when your heart beats. The second number (diastolic) measures the blood pressure in your vessels in between heartbeats.
Most blood pressure monitors are pretty straightforward. They measure the systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers along with your pulse and give you an average reading of your results. Some will even track your irregular heartbeat to check for any underlying issues.
Steps to Use a Digital Blood Pressure Monitor
Take an accurate in-home blood pressure reading by following the steps below:
- Get ready. Make sure you’re comfortable and relaxed. Your bladder should be empty, as a full one can impact the reading. Avoid smoking, exercise, and caffeine prior to taking your blood pressure.
- Get positioned. Comfortably seated is the best position for you to take a blood pressure reading. Remove any clothing that is tight or bulky around the upper arm, or roll up your sleeve. Place both feet on the floor (no crossed legs!) and rest your forearm comfortably on a table at heart level. Place your arm with the palm of your hand facing up.
- Find your pulse. Locate the brachial artery by finding your pulse in the center of your elbow. Press your index and middle fingers lightly against the inside of your elbow. If you can’t find it by feeling, use the arm cuff to locate your pulse.
- Use the right cuff. For an accurate reading, you need a blood pressure cuff that fits correctly. The length of the cuff should equal at least 80% of the circumference of your upper arm.
- Apply the blood pressure cuff. Wrap the cuff around your upper arm (it might help to have someone assist you). The lower edge of the cuff should be about one inch above the pit of your elbow. The cuff should feel snug, but not tight.
- Power up the monitor. Hold the bulb in the hand opposite the arm in the cuff, and press the power button on your monitor. You should see all the display symbols flash on the screen, followed by a zero. The zero means that the monitor is ready for action.
- Inflate the cuff. Squeeze the bulb or press the start button if your digital monitor has automatic cuff inflation. Keep inflating until the gauge reads about 30 points above your expected systolic blood pressure.
- Get your readings. Watch the monitor for the pressure readings. They will be displayed on either the left or right side of the screen. You’ll hear a long beep, which means the blood pressure measurement is complete. Take note of the pressures on the display. Systolic pressure should be on the left and the diastolic pressure should be on the right. The monitor may also display your pulse rate. Finally, let the cuff completely deflate.
What to Do If Your Reading Is Inaccurate
Sometimes you’ll get a reading that just doesn’t make sense. This is fairly common, especially when you’re first learning how to use your blood pressure monitor. If you didn’t get an accurate reading, don’t immediately re-inflate the blood pressure cuff. Remove the cuff and give yourself at least one minute before reapplying the cuff and repeating the steps to measure your blood pressure.
The American Heart Association recommends taking your new home blood pressure monitor with you to your next doctor’s appointment.1 You can ask questions, and your doctor can make sure you’re using the monitor correctly. You can also verify that your home monitor gets the same results as the equipment in your doctor’s office. It’s good practice to bring in your home monitor at least once a year to make sure readings are still accurate.
Consistent Blood Pressure Monitoring Is Key
Staying on top of your blood pressure is important, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. With the right home blood pressure monitor, it’s easy to keep your health in check. By partnering with your doctor to keep an ongoing record of your blood pressure between appointments, you’re more likely to get the right recommendations and medications.
Using a blood pressure monitor is just one way to improve your health so you can live a safer, more active life. Find more ways to look after your wellness and keep your household safe with our extensive safety resources that cover everything from medical alert devices to carbon monoxide detectors.