How to Measure Your Blood Pressure

19th Aug 2021

How to Measure Your Blood Pressure

We use our phone or smart devices to track our daily exercise, step count and calories, but how many of us will regularly check our blood pressure?

High Blood Pressure, also known as hypertension, affects one in four adults in the UK. It increases the risk of more serious health conditions including, heart attack and stroke. The biggest problem is that there are rarely any noticeable symptoms, so the only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured.

Whilst many of us will wait until our next doctor's appointment to have our blood pressure checked. But owning a blood pressure monitor will give you greater control over your health as you can record and monitor your results over a long period. Thanks to advances in affordable technology, these devices are just as reliable as those doctor’s use. Research shows that people who regularly monitor their blood pressure are more likely to get their hypertension under control.

Before you begin, you’ll want to know what the numbers mean. Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to push blood around your body. The reading consists of two numbers – the first number is the systolic pressure, and the second is diastolic pressure, which is the lower value.

  • Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Blood pressure between 120-129/80 is elevated blood pressure
  • Blood pressure of 130/80 or above is considered high.

Blood pressure readings between 120/80mmHg and 140/90mmHg could mean you're at risk of developing high blood pressure.

Just one reading isn’t a clear indication of any health problems. You’ll need to take multiple measurements to get an average. It is best to do this for a least a week and in the morning and evening (you can reduce this over time). If you are not used to measuring your blood pressure yourself, here are a few tips that'll help get you used to the process.

  • Avoid anything that will increase your blood pressure in the short term. In the 30 minutes before you plan to take your blood pressure, avoid eating, drinking caffeinated drinks or exercising. All of these can temporarily raise your blood pressure. If you need to use the bathroom before, a full bladder can increase blood pressure.
  • Keep things consistent. If possible, use the same arm each time, preferably the same arm your doctor or nurse takes reading from. For increased accuracy, you should also take your measurements at the same time each day. Your blood pressure can vary throughout the day, dependant on your activities or emotions. By sticking to either first thing in the morning each day, or the last thing at night, you’ll be comparing like for like.
  • Take Some Time Before to Relax. Sit down alone, somewhere comfortable before your reading, and take a few minutes to rest. If you are anxious or distracted, this may cause your blood pressure to rise temporarily.
  • Make Sure You Sit Properly. During measuring, you should sit with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor. Your arm should be supported on a flat surface, as close to heart level as possible. If you are using an arm monitor, the cuff should be placed just above the elbow. To make this easier, try to wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Take a repeat reading. If you have time, take a couple, and calculate the average to make the figures more representative.
  • Speak to your GP if you are concerned. Try not to worry about small changes, but if you have any doubts or concerns, the best thing to do is speak to a medical professional.

Recording Your Results

Your blood pressure monitor will store past readings and record averages for you (the number will depend on the model you select). But you may also want to keep a record of these on your phone, computer or in a notepad. Ideally, you should record the date, time, and of course, blood pressure reading. Keeping a record will help you see how any lifestyle changes have affected your readings and help your doctor recommend the correct treatment.

Investing in a blood pressure monitor may be a good idea if any of the following apply:

  • You have had a high reading at the doctors – and want to confirm if you have hypertension
  • You have been prescribed blood pressure medication and want to see if it is working
  • You are diabetic
  • You are pregnant

Even if you have healthy blood pressure and no underlying health conditions, there is no harm in keeping an eye on it. If you have any concerns, please consult your GP.