Checking blood pressure regularly with home blood pressure monitors is important if you are taking medication or using alternative treatments and want to be proactive in helping to manage your health care. The American Heart Association recommends people with high blood pressure include using home blood pressure monitors in daily routines to be certain their medications and other treatments are working effectively. Using a home blood pressure monitor gives you the chance to alert your health care practitioner to potential problems before they occur.
Using a home monitor can motivate you to self-track your treatment and stay proactively involved in your personal care. Having a blood pressure monitor can cut health care costs, helping to eliminate frequent doctor visits, and give you a birds-eye-view if your blood pressure differs in an environment other than your doctor’s office.
If your doctor or alternative health practitioner thinks a home blood pressure monitor is the right choice for you, follow these guidelines for purchasing and using one.
Finding the best home blood pressure monitor
Research online doing comparisons between brands and styles for home blood pressure monitors, which are widely available without a prescription from local pharmacies, big box stores and internet sites. Check a company’s return policy before making a purchase and always buy something that can be returned.
Investigate which kind of home blood pressure monitor is best for your situation. There are different types monitors available. The traditional cuff that wraps around your upper arm is cumbersome and requires the participation of a second person for measuring. Wrist cuffs which are attached to a free standing meter are available and can be easily wrapped around the wrist by the individual. Buttons on the meter are easily pushed to take blood pressure. One hand operation is usually the norm. These are reasonably priced and convenient for people who can take their own blood pressure.
Be sure wrist sizes are adequate. Check to see if the display is easily readable and a large enough for you to see.
Shop around for prices. Many online stores offer lower prices than might be found in local pharmacies. There is a wide range to choose from.
Calibrate and validate your monitor
After buying a new home blood pressure monitor, take it to the doctor or practitioner’s office to compare the accuracy of its measurement to readings from his blood pressure cuff. Be sure the new machine is validated which means it can be relied on for accuracy and those results can be consistently repeated. Be aware that wrist cuffs can be off in their measurements by 10 to 15 percent and should be calibrated by your doctor before using.
Contact the Dabl Educational Trust and the British Hypertension Society for a list of tested home blood pressure monitors that have been shown to be accurate in repeated uses. These are excellent resources for meters if you don’t have one already. Information is available online at their websites.
Avoid public blood pressure machines often found in many larger pharmacies. These machines may not be properly maintained and may measure blood pressure inaccurately and are not recommended.
Using your blood pressure monitor
Proper use of a home blood pressure monitor is easy but may take a few practice sessions to master. After having your health care practitioner check the monitor for accuracy, have her demonstrate its proper use and fit for accurate readings.
Measure blood pressure two or three times daily, the first being in the morning before medication has been taken. Always take blood pressure in the left arm. Write down the readings in a log or journal. Many home blood pressure monitors also give readings for pulse rate. Add that to the journal entries.
Correct body position for taking blood pressure at home
When taking a blood pressure reading sit calmly for a few minutes before starting. Make sure legs are uncrossed and feet are flat on the floor. Access to a table, chair arm or other support is important so the arm can be held comfortably at heart level when the blood pressure measurement is taken.
Wrap the cuff around the portion of the arm where it is meant to be and on bare skin. The cuff should fit firmly when in place before starting the reading. Avoid talking or any movement while taking the reading. Take a second reading several minutes after the first to confirm the accuracy of the monitor.
When to be concerned
Contact the doctor if readings vary greatly from one another. Blood pressure measurements vary slightly throughout the day and readings can be slightly higher in the mornings. Ask what level a normal reading is for your condition and what level would trigger an immediate call to the doctor. Write these at the beginning of the log in case you forget.
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