Heart and Vascular Health How Can I Check My Blood Pressure at Home? A Step-By-Step Guide By Heart and Vascular Institute, February 5, 2018 Many people with high blood pressure check their own blood pressure at home. However, you don’t need to have a high blood pressure diagnosis to do so yourself. Your blood pressure is the amount of force placed on the walls of your blood vessels as your heart pumps blood. What you learn from taking your blood pressure can improve your lifestyle and may prevent a future, life-changing diagnosis. Find out how to check your heart with the help of the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. How Can I Check My Blood Pressure at Home? Checking your blood pressure at home is easier than you’d expect. You first need to buy the right equipment. Talk to your doctor about the best home monitors to buy to check your blood pressure. You want to make sure you get the right size cuff. Once you have your device, here’s how to get started: Avoid tobacco, alcohol, exercise, and caffeine a half hour before you take a reading. Find a quiet place and sit in a comfortable chair. Rest for at least five minutes. Follow your monitor’s instruction booklet to position the cuff properly and inflate it. For manual monitors, this means squeezing the bulb. For automatic ones, it’s simply a press of a button. Check the readings. Write down the top number (your systolic pressure) and the bottom number (your diastolic pressure). Finally, establish a routine for checking your blood pressure at home. This enables you to notice trends in your numbers, which is helpful. Feel free to share your blood pressure records with your doctor, especially if you’re at a higher risk for developing heart disease. What If I Don’t Have Equipment? You don’t need a blood pressure cuff to take your resting heart rate, which is another measurement that helps indicate heart health. Digital monitors usually display both blood pressure and heart rate, but you can determine the former on your own by checking your pulse by hand. Your pulse is how many times your heart pumps per minute. First, locate the artery below the thumb on the inside of your wrist and place two fingers there. Count how many times you feel your heartbeat over a 15-second period, and then multiply your count by four to get your resting heart rate. When you’re checking pulse by hand, you’re looking for more than just a number. You’re also checking for a regular rhythm, which indicates a strong pulse. Common Causes of Inaccurate Readings A number of factors can affect your blood pressure and heart rate. If your numbers are unusually high or low, make some adjustments before trying again: Stress. When you’re worried, stress hormones temporarily elevate both your blood pressure and heart rate. Avoid stressors (like headlines or your to-do list) before checking your blood pressure at home. Drug and alcohol use. Tobacco, alcohol, and caffeine can affect your numbers, so avoid stimulants and depressants. Other medicines. Talk with your doctor about prescription and over-the-counter medicines that may interfere with an accurate reading. Once you determine your heart rate and blood pressure, record them in a journal or app. Try taking your pulse and checking your blood pressure around the same time every day to establish a personalized baseline. It’s that baseline your doctor will use to help you determine what your numbers mean. To schedule a comprehensive heart screening, visit UPMC’s Heart and Vascular Institute.