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How to Take A Blood Pressure


What is 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 do I need to take my 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 decrease blood flow to your organs, such as your brain and kidneys. This can damage your organs. 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 do I take my BP?

You can take your BP at home with a digital BP monitor. Read the instructions that came with your BP monitor. The monitor comes with an adjustable cuff. Ask your healthcare provider if your cuff is the correct size. A cuff that is too small will cause a falsely high blood pressure. A cuff that is too big will cause a falsely low blood pressure.

  • Do not take a BP reading in an arm that is injured or has an IV or shunt.
  • Do not check your blood pressure within 30 minutes of smoking, drinking coffee, or exercising. These may affect your BP reading.
  • Rest quietly for 5 minutes before you take your BP.
  • Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your back against a chair.
  • Extend your arm and support it on a flat surface. Your arm should be at the same level as your heart.
  • Make sure all of the air is out of 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.
  • If you are using a wrist cuff, wrap the cuff snugly around your wrist. Hold your wrist at the same level as your heart.
  • 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. Take your blood pressure twice and write down both readings. These BP readings can be 1 minute apart.
    How to take a Blood Pressure

How often should I take my 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 your healthcare provider when and how often you should take your BP.

What else do I need to know?

  • Your healthcare provider will tell you what your BP should be. A BP of 120/80 may not be your goal.
  • Take your BP medicines as directed. Do not stop taking your medicines if your blood pressure is at your goal. A blood pressure at your goal means your medicine is working correctly.
  • Keep a log of your BP readings and bring it to your follow-up visits.
  • Bring your BP monitor to your follow-up visit. Your healthcare provider can check that you are using the monitor correctly.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. 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.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.