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How to Take Your Blood Pressure

Last reviewed: 19 Jan 2022

Medically Reviewed By: Dr Jay Shah

Resource Hub / Monitoring blood pressure How to Take Your Blood Pressure

1.3 billion people suffer from hypertension, and it is the leading cause of heart attacks and strokes worldwide. As this condition becomes more common, it’s important that everyone knows what their blood pressure is.

In this guide, we look at how to check blood pressure, the benefits of measuring your blood pressure, what your readings mean, and tips for obtaining accurate results.

Why should you monitor your blood pressure at home?

It helps to keeps your blood pressure under control

It is estimated that up to 50% of people with hypertension are unaware that they have it, since there are no physical symptoms for the vast majority of people with hypertension. So by checking it at home on a routine basis, you can detect the onset of the disease faster, and implement changes to treat it. People with known hypertension need to know what their blood pressure is as a first step to preventing the complications from hypertension. By knowing their blood pressure, they can work to keep it under control and can assess what may be increasing it. People with a family history of hypertension or who are at risk for developing hypertension, may also find it useful to measure their blood pressure regularly to detect rising blood pressure earlier.

According to a study by researchers in Minnesota, people who used home blood pressure monitors had more success getting their blood pressure under control than people who received regular care without home monitors. What’s more, these benefits continued for 6 months after the trial ended.

It’s easier than visiting a health practitioner every time

For many people, checking their blood pressure means visiting their local GP. But that isn’t always easy or possible for a number of reasons, including logistics, cost, illness, or inability to leave the house. That’s where a home blood pressure monitor comes in handy. Patients can use a home device and get a measurement straight away without having to go and visit a doctor.

It’s super quick at home

If you visit your GP for a blood pressure reading, you have to travel to their office, wait for your appointment, and then have your blood pressure taken. This could be over an hour in waiting just for 1-2 readings only on one particular day. But if you have a BP monitor at home, you don’t have to take any extra time out of your day, and you can take the readings from the comfort of your home rather than in a stressful and unusual environment.

How to measure your blood pressure

There are a number of blood pressure monitors on the market but the general idea behind how to use them is the same. Traditionally, blood pressure is measured using a device called a sphygmomanometer, which uses an inflatable arm cuff to measure systolic and diastolic pressures between heartbeats. 

Nowadays, there are also more modern blood pressure monitors that can be worn on the wrist or finger. These smaller blood pressure monitors are becoming increasingly popular due to their ease of use, subtle appearance, and the ability to wear them round the clock.

How to take your blood pressure using a wrist blood pressure monitor

Basic instructions

If you are using the Aktiia blood pressure bracelet to measure your blood pressure, you will need to carry out an initial calibration to set it up correctly. It is also advisable to familiarise yourself with the manual to ensure you can fully understand the automatic readings throughout the day and take the appropriate action.

If you’re using a different wrist blood pressure monitor, consider the following steps:

  1. Make sure to read the manual to familiarise yourself with the device and for specific instructions that may differ with other blood pressure bracelets. 
  2. You’ll get the best results from a wrist monitor when you’re sitting down and in a resting position.
  3. Rest your arm on a table or flat surface and allow the device to read your blood pressure, or hold your arm at heart level if the device’s manual instructs you to do so.
  4. Take your blood pressure a second time to compare the readings.
  5. Make a note of both readings.

How to take your blood pressure using an arm cuff

Using a blood pressure monitoring cuff comes with slightly more considerations than a wearable blood pressure monitor.

Basic instructions

  1. While resting, sit comfortably and upright in a chair.
  2. Rest your arm on a table or flat surface.
  3. Place the cuff over your upper arm and tighten the cuff over your arm, making sure you can fit two fingers underneath the cuff.
  4. Turn the monitor on and press the start button.
  5. The cuff will inflate quickly and tighten around the arm, making it feel uncomfortable. If it’s too painful, it might be too tight.
  6. The cuff will inflate and deflate for a short period as it measures your systolic and diastolic levels.
  7. Take your blood pressure a second time to compare the readings.
  8. Make a note of both readings.

Understanding your blood pressure readings

Blood pressure readings are made up of two numbers:

  • Systolic pressure: the measure of pressure when your heart pumps blood out
  • Diastolic pressure: the measure of pressure when your heart is resting between beats

Blood pressure is measured in units of millimetres of mercury (mmHg) and can look like this:

120/80mmHg

You would usually call this “120 over 80” with the 120 being the systolic pressure and the 80 being the diastolic pressure.

Here are a list of ranges to give you an idea of what your blood pressure reading means in real terms, according to the standards of the American College of Cardiology (ACC) and European Society of Hypertension (ESH):

ACC/AHA ESC/ESH
Definition of Hypertension (mm Hg) ≥ 130/80 ≥ 140/90
Normal Blood Pressure ranges (mm Hg) Normal: < 120/80

Elevated: 120-129/<80

Optimal: < 120/80

Normal: 120-129/80-84

High normal: 130-139/85-89

Hypertension Stages (mm Hg) Stage 1: 130-139/80-89

Stage 2: ≥ 140/90

Grade 1: 140-159/90-99

Grade 2: 160-179/100-109

Grade 3: ≥ 180/110

Age Specific Blood Pressure targets (mm Hg) < 65 years: <130/80

≥ 65 years: <130/80

< 65 years < 120-129/70-79

≥ 65 years < 130-139/70-79

 

If you are worried about your blood pressure measurements, you should consult your doctor who will advise on how best to manage your blood pressure day-to-day.

Tips to measure your blood pressure accurately

To ensure your blood pressure readings are accurate, consider the following advice when using a cuff or other non-automatic blood pressure monitor:

  • Find a quiet room with a comfortable temperature.
  • Before taking your measurements, avoid smoking, caffeine and exercise for 30 min. 
  • Aim to remain seated and relaxed for 3-5 minutes. 
  • Sit on a back-supported chair and feet flat to the floor. Rest your arm on the table with the middle part of the arm at heart level
  • Size your cuff according to your arm circumference. Smaller cuffs overestimate and larger cuffs underestimate blood pressure.
  • Check the specific device instructions for the cuffs.
  • Take 3 measurements with 1 minute between each one. Calculate the average of the last 2 measurements. 
  • Make sure your device is up-to-date: whether that’s a firmware update or a newer version of your device, it’s important to have the most up-to-date version of your blood pressure monitor.

When using the Aktiia 24/7 Blood Pressure Monitor, measurements are taken automatically every hour. Just follow the instructions for use included with your product and go about your daily life.

Summary

There are plenty of benefits of monitoring your blood pressure at home, with various different devices available to help you do this. The traditional arm cuff will be familiar with many who suffer from hypertension, whilst blood pressure bracelets such as Aktiia offer comfort and the ability to effortlessly track your measurements throughout the day.

Find out how Aktiia can help you monitor your blood pressure today.

Aktiia Team Written by The Aktiia Team

Our mission is to help people live free from hypertension.

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