High blood pressure is the biggest known cause of disability and premature death in the UK through stroke, heart attack and heart disease. One in three adults in the UK have high blood pressure and every day 350 people have a preventable stroke or heart attack caused by the condition. This is why its important to measure your blood pressure.
Why measure your blood pressure at home?
Your doctor or nurse will want to measure your blood pressure regularly. This is to make sure that medicines or lifestyle changes are helping to bring your blood pressure down. You may also want to measure your blood pressure yourself at home. This can be very useful, for a number of reasons:
- It can give a picture of what your blood pressure is like as you go about your daily life.
- You can see if your blood pressure is higher in the clinic that it is at home.
- You can see for yourself how your treatment is working for you.
- Many people find that measuring their own blood pressure helps them feel more in control of their condition.
Before You Take Your Reading:
- Make sure you do not need to use the toilet, and that you have not just eaten a big meal.
- Do not measure your blood pressure within 30 minutes of drinking caffeine or smoking.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes like a short sleeved t-shirt so that you can push your sleeve up comfortably.
- Always use the same arm for readings, as each arm will give you a slightly different reading. If possible, use the arm that your doctor or nurse uses when measuring your blood pressure.
- Before you take your readings, rest for a few minutes. You should be sitting down in a quiet place, preferably at a desk or table, with your arm resting on a firm surface and your feet flat on the floor.
- Make sure your arm is supported and that the cuff around your arm is at the same level as your heart. You may need to support your arm with a cushion to be sure it is at the correct height. Your arm should be relaxed, not tensed.
Taking Your Reading:
Now, you may be wondering what the numbers on the screen even mean. Well your blood pressure numbers show how hard your blood is pushing against the sides of your blood vessels (arteries) as it travels round your body.
When you have your blood pressure measured it is written like this: 120/80mmHg, which is said '120 over 80'. The first number is the systolic pressure, when your heart pushes blood around your body. The second is the diastolic pressure, when your heart relaxes.
Blood pressure usually ranges between 90 to 250 for the top or maximum number (systolic) and 60 to 140 for the bottom or minimum number (diastolic).
A healthy blood pressure is 120/80 or less, but the lower you can get it, the better.
What Cuff Size Do You Need?
It is very important to use the appropriate size cuff for your arm to get accurate measurement results when using your blood pressure monitor. In order to determine the appropriate cuff size, you need to measure the circumference of your arm. You should periodically measure your arm size. This is especially needed if you have a borderline arm size measurement, or may have gained or lost weight.
Measure the circumference of your arm. Make sure the arm cuff you are using with your monitor is the correct size for you. When the incorrect cuff is used you may get an inaccurate reading at the first measurement you take or after a short period of use because the cuff bladder will be damaged.
To determine your arm size, use a cloth tape measure and place the tape measure midway between your elbow and your shoulder around the circumference of your upper arm. Wrap the tape measure evenly around your arm. Do not pull the tape tight. Note the precise measurement in inches.
D-Ring Cuff Sizing:
- Small Adult Cuff - fits arm sizes 7.0 to 9.0 inches.
- Standard Adult Cuff - fits arm sizes 9.1 to 13.0 inches.
- Large Adult Cuff - fit arm sizes 13.1 to 17.0 inches.
Comfit Cuff Sizing:
- The Comfit cuff will fit arms 9.0 to 17.0 inches.
Why do my blood pressure readings seem to vary?
There are several reasons why you may have inconsistent readings. Many factors exist that can cause a variation in blood pressure measurement values, for example, recent activities or even the time of day can alter the reading.
Additionally, the user's technique is very important for reliable measurement results.