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July 20, 2011

Home Blood Pressure Monitoring: Another Strategy to Improve Your Health

Almost one-third of Montana adults have been diagnosed with hypertension or told that they have high blood pressure. Fortunately, there are many ways to lower blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. These include lifestyle changes, such as stopping smoking, being active, and eating smarter, and a variety of medications. 

“Checking blood pressure readings at home can also be an important part of managing hypertension and improving your health,” says Anna Whiting Sorrell, Director of the Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) “Home blood pressure monitoring is not a substitute for regular visits with your health care provider. It is, however, another excellent example of how individuals can take responsibility for their own health.”

Devices for checking blood pressure at home are available without a prescription and, depending on the type, range in price from under $20 to over $100. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), research has shown that accurate blood pressure monitoring at home can be a helpful addition to regular checks in a health care provider's office. Home monitoring may be especially useful for people just starting on medication, for the elderly, and for those who experience higher readings only during medical visits.

“Some people experience anxiety at a doctor's office, which leads to temporarily higher blood pressure. This is known as white-coat hypertension,” explains Dr. Steven Helgerson, DPHHS State Medical Officer. “Results from monitoring blood pressure at home can give your health provider a clearer view of how well your blood pressure is controlled.”

There are several potential benefits to monitoring blood pressure at home including:

Earlier diagnosis and treatment: If you have pre-hypertension or other conditions that contribute to high blood pressure, such as diabetes or kidney disease, home monitoring can help your health care provider diagnose your condition at an early stage. Early diagnosis and treatment help to limit the damage caused by elevated blood pressure.

Better control and reduced risk of disease: Recording blood pressure readings at home is one of the best ways to track how well medication and lifestyle changes are working in your individual case. These readings can help your health care provider prescribe the right dose of medications to reduce your personal risk of heart disease and stroke.

Lower overall health care costs: Better control of blood pressure can also help reduce cost. Accurate home monitoring may cut down on the number of visits you need to make to your doctor or clinic, lower your travel expenses, and save on lost wages. If you are able to reduce medications, you may also reduce the cost of prescriptions or co-payments.

Home Blood Pressure Monitoring:
Some Frequently Asked Questions

Here are general answers to some of the most common questions about monitoring your blood pressure at home. Additional information is available online:

American Academy of Family Physicians
     http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/heartdisease/treatment/128.html
Mayo Clinic
     www.mayoclinic.com/health/high-blood-pressure/HI00016

For best results and personalized answers, discuss your individual situation with your health care provider before you purchase a home blood pressure monitor.

  • Talk to your provider about your blood pressure goals. If you have diabetes, kidney disease or cardiovascular disease, you may need a goal lower than that of someone without these conditions.
  • Blood pressure varies throughout the day and may be a little higher in the morning. Contact your provider if you have unusual or persistent increases in blood pressure.
  • Ask what reading should prompt an immediate call to the office. If your home reading shows that your blood pressure is higher than normal and you experience symptoms such as severe headache, chest pain, numbness, or tingling in the face or limbs, contact your provider immediately or seek emergency treatment.

Who should not monitor their blood pressure at home?

  • Not everyone should track blood pressure at home. If you have an irregular heartbeat, home blood pressure monitors might not give you an accurate reading.
  • Talk to your health care provider to see if home monitoring is a good option for you. Ask if a properly trained family member or friend may be able to take readings for you.

 

What types of devices are available to measure your blood pressure at home?

  • Digital devices have a cuff and a gauge to record the pressure. The cuff automatically inflates at the touch of a button. These devices automatically calculate heart rate and check your blood pressure while the cuff deflates. Some even give you an error message if you aren't wearing the cuff properly.
  • If you are overweight or very muscular, you'll need to find a monitor with a larger arm cuff.

 

How can I get accurate blood pressure readings at home?

No matter what type of home blood pressure monitor you choose, proper use requires practice and training. Read all the instructions carefully and follow these general tips:

  • Check your monitor's accuracy regularly at your health care provider’s office.
  • Wait an hour or so after waking to take a measurement.
  • Avoid food, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol for 30 minutes before taking a measurement.
  • Sit quietly and do not talk while measuring your blood pressure.
  • Make sure your arm is positioned properly when measuring.
  • Place the cuff on bare skin, not over clothing.
  • Keep a log of your readings to periodically review with your health care provider.
Page last updated: 07/30/2013