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How To Take A Blood Pressure


Blood pressure (BP) is the force or pressure that blood puts on the walls of your arteries as it goes through your body. BP readings are usually written as 2 numbers. The first or top number is called systolic BP. The second or bottom number is called diastolic BP. Normal BP is less than 120/80.


Why you may need to take your BP:

You may need to take your BP at home if have hypertension (high BP) or hypotension (low BP). High BP increases your risk for stroke, heart attack, or kidney disease. Low BP may cause you to feel dizzy or like you are going to pass out. This usually happens when you stand up quickly. You may need to take medicine to keep your BP at a normal level. Your healthcare provider can use the BP readings you take at home to make sure that your BP medicines are working. Ask your healthcare provider what your BP should be.

How to check your BP:

You can check your BP at home with a digital BP monitor. Read the instructions that came with your BP monitor.

  • Sit and rest for 5 minutes before you take your BP. Extend your arm and support it on a flat surface. Your arm should be at the same level as your heart. Both of your feet should be flat on the floor.
  • The device has a built-in pump that inflates the cuff. Put the cuff about 1 inch (2.5 cm) above your elbow. Wrap the cuff snugly around your arm. The BP reading may not be correct if the cuff is too loose.
  • Turn on the BP monitor and follow the directions.
  • Write down your BP, the date, the time, and which arm you used to take the BP. If possible, take your blood pressure twice and write down both readings. These BP readings can be 1 minute apart. Let the air out of the cuff. Turn off the monitor and take off the BP cuff.

How often to take your BP:

Your healthcare provider may recommend that you take your BP at least twice a day. Take your BP at the same times each day, such as the morning and evening. Ask when and how often you should take your BP.

What else you need to know:

  • Take your medicines as directed. Do not stop taking your medicines without talking to your healthcare provider first.
  • Keep a log of your BP readings and bring it to your follow-up visits. Ask your healthcare provider if you should also bring your BP monitor. He may want to make sure that you are using it correctly and that the monitor is accurate.
  • Do not check your blood pressure within 30 minutes of smoking, drinking coffee, or exercising. These may affect your BP reading.
  • Do not take a BP reading in an arm that is injured or has an IV or a shunt.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have nausea or vomiting.
  • You feel dizzy.
  • Your BP is higher or lower than your healthcare provider has told you it should be.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Return to the emergency department if:

  • You have a severe headache that does not go away, even after you take pain medicine.
  • You have chest pain or pressure.
  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have trouble thinking clearly.

© 2017 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.