Your doctor may ask you to keep track of your blood pressure at home. To do this, you will need to get a good quality, well-fitting home blood pressure monitor.
There are two types of monitors you can use at home: a manual monitor, and an electronic or digital monitor. A digital monitor is a better option. It is very important that you have a monitor with a cuff that fits your arm (above the elbow). Make sure that the cuff is the right size (one size does not fit all).
Practice using the monitor with your doctor or nurse to make sure you are taking your blood pressure correctly.
Ask your doctor to show you how to use the monitor. Your arm should be supported, with your upper arm at heart level and feet on the floor (back supported, legs uncrossed).
It's best to measure your blood pressure after you rest for at least 5 minutes. Do not take your blood pressure when you are under stress, have had caffeine or used a tobacco product in the last 30 minutes, or have recently exercised.
See: Measuring blood pressure for steps to take when measuring your blood pressure.
MANUAL BLOOD PRESSURE DEVICES
Manual devices include a cuff that wraps around your arm, a rubber squeeze bulb, and a gauge that measures the blood pressure. A stethoscope is needed to listen to the blood pulsing through the artery.
You can see your blood pressure on the circular dial of the gauge as the needle moves around and the pressure in the cuff rises or falls.
When used correctly, manual devices are very accurate. However, they are not the recommended type of blood pressure monitor for home use.
DIGITAL BLOOD PRESSURE DEVICES
A digital device will also have a cuff that wraps around your arm. To inflate the cuff, you may need to use a rubber squeeze ball, or simply push a button and the cuff will inflate by itself.
After the cuff is inflated, the pressure will slowly drop on its own. The screen will show a digital readout of your systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
After showing your blood pressure, the cuff will deflate on its own. With most machines, you must wait for 2 to 3 minutes before using it again.
A digital blood pressure monitor will not be as accurate if your body is moving when you are using it. Also, an irregular heart rate will make the reading less accurate. However, digital monitors are the best choice for most people.
Victor RG. Systemic hypertension: mechanisms and diagnosis. In: Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 45.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.