Discharge Instructions: Taking Your Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood as it moves from the heart through the blood vessels. You can take your own blood pressure reading using a digital monitor. Take readings as often as your healthcare provider instructs. Take your readings each time in the same way, using the same arm. Here are guidelines for taking your blood pressure.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends purchasing a blood pressure monitor that is validated and approved by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, the British Hypertension Society, and the International Protocol for the Validation of Automated BP Measuring Devices. If the blood pressure monitor is for a senior adult, a pregnant woman, or a child, make certain it is validated for use with such a population. For the most reliable readings, the AHA recommends an automatic, cuff-style, upper arm (bicep) monitor. The readings from finger and wrist monitors are not as reliable as the upper arm monitor.



Step 1. Relax

Man sitting in chair.

  • Wait at least a half hour after smoking, eating, or exercising. Do not drink coffee, tea, soda, or other caffeinated beverages before checking your blood pressure. 

  • Sit comfortably at a table. Place the monitor near you.

  • Rest for a few minutes before you begin.



Step 2. Wrap the cuff

Arm resting on table while hand secures blood pressure cuff on upper arm.

  • Place your arm on the table, palm up. Put your arm in a position that is level with your heart. Wrap the cuff around your upper arm, about an inch above your elbow. It’s best to wrap the cuff on bare skin, not over clothing.

  • Make sure your cuff fits. If it doesn’t wrap around your upper arm, order a larger cuff. A cuff that is too large or too small can result in an inaccurate blood pressure reading.




Step 3. Inflate the cuff

Arm resting on table with blood pressure cuff on upper arm. Other hand is pushing start button on blood pressure machine.

  • Pump the cuff until the scale reads 200. If you have a self-inflating cuff, push the button that starts the pump.

  • The cuff will tighten, then loosen.

  • The numbers will change. When they stop changing, your blood pressure reading will appear.

  • If you get a reading that is too high or too low for you, relax for a few minutes. Then do the test again.

Hand writing in blood pressure log.

Step 4. Write down the results

  • Write down your blood pressure numbers. Mark the date and time. Keep your results in one place, such as a notebook.

  • Remove the cuff from your arm. Turn off the machine.

  • Take the readings with you to your medical appointments.

  • If you start a new blood pressure medicine, or change a blood pressure medicine dose, note the day you started the new drug or dosage on your blood pressure recording sheet. This will help your healthcare provider monitor the effect of medication changes.



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