Home Blood Pressure Monitoring: Some Do's and Don'ts

Measuring blood pressure at home is a great tool for maintaining your health. Learn the do's and don'ts of home blood pressure monitoring before you start.

September 29, 2023

Home blood pressure monitoring can be a valuable tool in maintaining your health, but like any tool, it comes with its own set of dos and don'ts. Keeping tabs on your blood pressure from the comfort of your home can empower you to make informed decisions about your overall health and well-being.

In this discussion, we'll explore the essential guidelines to ensure you are getting the most accurate blood pressure readings and avoiding common mistakes that lead to errors. So, let's dive into the world of home blood pressure monitoring, where knowledge and care go hand in hand to guide you to better health.

Why home blood pressure monitoring is recommended by doctors


Home blood pressure monitoring is strongly recommended because it's a powerful tool in the battle against hypertension, or high blood pressure.

What exactly is high blood pressure you might ask?

Well, it's when the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries is consistently too high.

While this might not sound like a big deal, over time it can seriously harm your health. It can strain your heart, damage your blood vessels, and even lead to problems like heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. By regularly monitoring your blood pressure at home, you can catch any rises early, allowing you and your doctor to take action and keep your blood pressure in check, reducing the risk of these more serious cardiovascular problems from happening.

As you can see, home blood pressure monitoring isn’t just about numbers on a monitor; it's about safeguarding your long-term health.

Accuracy happens at home, not at the doctor's office

You may not know this, but one of the most beneficial reasons to regularly check your blood pressure at home is the level of accuracy.

Home monitoring is better than the doctor’s office for 3 main reasons

  1. More accurate pressure trends: Regular monitoring at home provides more readings than the readings done a few times a year at your doctor’s office.
  2. Reduced anxiety means more accurate readings: The “white coat” effect can sway the results. In about 10-20% of patients, the readings are misleadingly higher at the doctor’s office than they are the rest of the time because people get anxious when their blood pressure is measured by the doctor.
  3. Readings are taken correctly: Measurements at physicians’ offices are often misleadingly elevated because blood pressure is often taken immediately instead of after sitting quietly for a few minutes, as recommended by guidelines.

Common mistakes in monitoring blood pressure at home

While checking your blood pressure at home can be beneficial, it's important to make sure your readings are accurate. Inaccurate readings can cause problems, like making you think you need medication when you don’t. So, it's super important to get those readings spot-on to make sure you're getting the right treatment if needed and not overdoing it if you don't.

Here are the most common mistakes that lead to inaccurate readings

  1. Most people taking their own blood pressure put on the cuff and immediately press the GO button. All guidelines recommend putting on the cuff, waiting 5 minutes while seated quietly, and then taking 3 readings. The reason is our BP usually increases with activity. When we sit down it takes a few minutes for your blood pressure to settle to its stable baseline level. If you don’t wait, your readings will be misleadingly higher.  
  2. Many patients check their BP only when they think it is high. This cherry-picks readings that are higher than your usual blood pressure.
  3. Some patients check their BP multiple times a day because of anxiety about their blood pressure, even obsession. This anxiety often results in readings that are higher than your usual blood pressure. There is rarely a need for multiple measurements on a given day unless you have been told by your doctor to do so.
  4. I’ve personally observed that electronic monitors can cause a higher reading in the moment because of the slow inflation and deflation with a somewhat lengthy, often painful squeezing of the arm. This happens particularly in monitors that slowly inflate way over 200 mm and then slowly deflate.

If you notice that your home blood pressure readings seem to be higher or lower than usual, bring your monitor with you when you see your doctor so they can check its accuracy.


How often should you check your blood pressure at home?

How often you should check your blood pressure at home depends on your health and on your doctor’s recommendations. But a good rule of thumb is to aim for a couple of times a week at different times of the day. Don't take your blood pressure right after you wake up. Reason: your blood pressure is typically higher than usual at that time because you’re charging up to face the day.

If you're making changes to your lifestyle or medication, your doctor might want you to check it more often for a while. The key is to work with your healthcare team to figure out the right schedule for you. The goal: checking it regularly but not obsessively.

Interpreting a home blood pressure reading

The usual target for home BP is an average systolic BP below 130, and diastolic BP below 80. In elderly patients, a Systolic BP averaging in the 130s is perfectly reasonable. As you age, low systolic readings are the concern.

It’s also important to bear in mind that even if your usual BP is in the desired range of the 120s/, you will likely have occasional readings in the 130s, and, less often in the 140s or 150s. The occasional elevation is common and shouldn’t be cause for alarm. But if you notice your BP is frequently above the target, then talk with your doctor and show them the results you’ve recorded.


So there you have it. Home blood pressure monitoring is a valuable and low-cost tool for taking charge of your health. By following the dos and don'ts, you can ensure that the readings you get are accurate and reliable. Remember, it's not just about the numbers; it's about understanding your health and making informed decisions. So, keep a regular schedule, use the right equipment, and involve your healthcare team. Don't stress over every little fluctuation, life happens. Reach out to your doctor if you have questions or concerns. With these tips in mind, you're on your way to a healthier, happier you. Cheers to your well-being!

Physician. Professor. Researcher. Author. Speaker.

Hypertension specialist, New York Presbyterian Hospital - Weill Cornell Medical Center



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