Published on 18 September, 2021
Blood pressure monitors can be used at home to monitor either one’s own blood pressure or by caregivers to measure that of patients with motor or cognitive impairment and young children. They enable the monitoring of the blood pressure in a calm, familiar and comfortable environment of one’s home as against the stressful environment of a doctor’s clinic, resulting in more realistic readings. The home readings reflect the risk of heart disease and damage to organs such as the brain, eyes, kidneys and arteries that may be caused by the high blood pressure.
Here are some aspects that should be considered while recording the blood pressure at home:
Select a Validated Device
Selecting a clinically validated device is recommended for accurate results. The monitors give two blood pressure readings – the higher reading is the systolic blood pressure and the lower is the diastolic blood pressure. For example, if the blood pressure is 120/80, 120 is the systolic and 80 is the diastolic blood pressure. These reflect the blood pressures when the heart contracts and relaxes, respectively. Most monitors also detect the pulse rate, which is the number of heart beats per minute. Devices for pregnant women and children must be specifically validated for them. The home blood pressure monitors may not give accurate results in people with abnormal heart rhythms.
Follow the Doctor’s and Device’s Instructions to the Core
Before using the monitor, the instruction sheet that accompanies with the device must be carefully read and understood. A physician or nurse’s help may be sought to understand how to use the monitor properly to obtain accurate results.
The doctor will advise taking the readings at the same time of the day over the same arm while being calm and comfortable. Other instructions may include avoiding smoking, caffeinated drinks and exercise for at least 30 minutes, rest for at least 5 minutes and emptying the urinary bladder before recording the pressure.
The instructions also advise the position in which the blood pressure must be taken. The patient must sit in a chair with a backrest, the elbow resting on a table and the upper arm at the level of the heart. The legs should be uncrossed with the feet flat on the ground.
Report the Readings to the Doctor
The treating physician will usually advise the patient on the blood pressure measurements that indicate a good control, those that should be reported early and those that require an immediate call to the emergency department. The readings during home monitoring are usually slightly less than those taken in the clinic. There should be no attempt to self-medicate without consulting the treating physician.
A home blood pressure monitor gives hypertensive patients some control over their disease. They tend to understand their condition better, adhere to the treatment prescribed, and contact their doctor early in case of high readings. However, it is important to measure the readings accurately to achieve an optimal control of the blood pressure and prevent the side effects of over treatment.
Thomas Unger et al. 2020 International Society of Hypertension Global Hypertension Practice Guidelines. Hypertension 2020; 75 (6): 1334-1357 https://doi.org/10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.120.15026
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