According to the American Heart Association, nearly 75 million adults in the United States have hypertension. An elevated blood pressure can lead to serious medical conditions such as heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease. It is wise to keep an eye on your blood pressure readings. Monitoring your pressure at home can be done easily using an automatic blood pressure monitoring device.
An automatic blood pressure monitor (also known as a digital monitor or electronic blood pressure monitor), can be purchased at drug stores, medical supply stores, ordered from a catalog or bought on the Internet. The price is quite reasonable, usually in the $30 to $70 range, depending on its features. The automatic cuff eliminates the need for a stethoscope which is needed when using an aneroid blood pressure monitor. Be sure to check the cuff size before you purchase the monitor, especially if you are overweight.
The unit is quite simple to operate but if you are unsure, your physician or nurse can show you how to use it. Be comfortably seated before checking your blood pressure. If you have been active, try to relax before you take the reading.
Place the cuff around your upper arm, positioning it just above the elbow. Most cuffs have a Velcro closure. Wrap it securely but not too tightly. The cuff should be tight enough to keep it from sliding down your arm, but loose enough that it does not impede circulation.
Press the “Start” button. The cuff will tighten around your upper arm and the numbers on the display screen will increase as the cuff tightens. When the cuff starts to loosen, the numbers will decrease.
Once the cuff has deflated, the screen will display two numbers. Blood pressure is the force or pressure against the walls of the arteries when your heart beats or is at rest. The top number is known as the systolic blood pressure and the bottom number is the diastolic pressure. The normal blood pressure is about 120/80 but your doctor can tell you what is the ideal reading for you. Most monitors will also display your pulse rate. If the screen displays an “Error” message, it could be that the cuff is too loose. Turn the machine off and start again. Consistent error messages could mean that the machine needs to be recalibrated.
Record your results in a notebook so the doctor can see exactly what the readings have been. Do not rely on your memory. Write down the date and time you took the pressure and make notes if there have been any unusual symptoms or activity that might be affecting the reading. Try to take your blood pressure at the same time every day. Be aware that your blood pressure readings do change throughout the day. Many things can affect the blood pressure, including activity, stress, medications and smoking.
American Heart Association: “High blood pressure: what can be done”.
Mayo Clinic: “Getting the most out of home blood pressure monitoring”.