So you have high blood pressure and have been told that you should monitor your own blood pressure at home. Your doctor has told you when to measure, how often to measure, and what value you should be aiming for. Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, there are actually a number of issues that can interfere with your results. To ensure that you get an accurate blood pressure reading every time, follow the tips below.

  • Be familiar: Be sure you are comfortable with your blood pressure monitor before you use it for the first time. Read the instructions carefully, and if you're not sure or have questions, ask your doctor or pharmacist. Make sure you have the right size of cuff and that you position the cuff correctly
  • Be stress-free. Your blood pressure reading could be falsely high if you are anxious, stressed, or feeling pain.
  • Be nicotine- and caffeine-free. It is important not to smoke or drink coffee within 30 minutes of your reading. These substances can cause falsely high readings.
  • Be stimulant-free. Certain medications (e.g., decongestant stimulants such as pseudophedrine and phenylephrine) may cause your heart to beat faster, resulting in an increased blood pressure reading. People with high blood pressure should avoid these medications. Always check with your pharmacist before starting any new prescription or over-the-counter medication.
  • Be comfortable. If your bladder or bowel is too full, this may make you feel uncomfortable and anxious. You should also make sure you are not wearing a shirt with tight sleeves, as increased pressure around the arm that you are using for your blood pressure measurement can interfere with the results.
  • Be rested. It is important that you sit down and rest for at least 5 minutes before you measure your blood pressure so that your heart is at its resting rate.
  • Be silent. Remain quiet for the entire time you are resting and taking your measurement. Talking during the procedure can cause your blood pressure to increase, leading to an inaccurate reading.
  • Be seated properly. You should sit in a chair that supports your back, and your arm should be supported at the level of your heart. Your legs should be uncrossed and your feet should be flat on the floor to ensure proper blood flow.

For most people, a blood pressure measurement taken at home should be less than 135/85. Some people, such as those with diabetes, need to aim for a lower number. Ask your doctor what your target blood pressure reading should be.

It's best to measure your blood pressure first thing in the morning before eating or taking medications, or in the evening before bed or taking medications. Also, check the accuracy of your home monitor yearly by taking it along to a doctor's appointment and comparing the reading done by your doctor to one by your monitor

Be sure to follow your doctor's recommendations regarding monitoring your blood pressure, and speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about your readings. Blood pressure measurements taken at home should not be used as a replacement for your doctor's regular assessment.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource clinical team.