Blood pressure monitoring tips for patients

Blood pressure monitors are readily available for sale at your community pharmacy, or for in-store testing while you wait for your prescription.  They are a great way to monitor the effectiveness of blood pressure medications, and it has been shown that frequent monitoring can motivate patients to take their medication(s).  Recording your readings and taking them to your doctor’s office is a great way for the family doctor to monitor pressure changes that may occur between office visits. 

Patients may wonder if their home monitor or the in-store machines are as accurate as the readings they get from their doctor.  Some studies indicate home blood pressure monitors provide more accurate and reliable readings than those obtained by the doctor since some patients have “white coat hypertension”, which is a high blood pressure reading caused by anxiety from being in the physician’s office. The accuracy of home blood pressure monitors can be tested by taking the monitor to the next doctor’s appointment and comparing a reading with the one the physician takes, using a mercury manometer.

It is important that blood pressure readings are accurate.  The following are some tips to ensure you get the best possible reading from your monitor: 

1. Buy a good quality blood pressure monitor

·       When purchasing a blood pressure monitor look for a symbol that shows the machine is endorsed by Hypertension Canada. Your pharmacist is there to help you and can assist you in recommending the proper monitor for you.

2. The time of day is important

  • Measure your blood pressure ONLY when you are relaxed. Do NOT measure your blood pressure if you are sick or stressed
  • Measure your blood pressure after your bowels and bladder are emptied
  • Wait two hours after eating a large meal before you take your blood pressure
  • Wait 30 minutes after drinking caffeinated beverages and smoking before you take your blood pressure
  • Take your blood pressure in the morning and evening before your blood pressure medications

3. Good technique is essential

  • Sit in a chair that supports your back and sit beside a table that supports your arm
  • Your arm should be positioned so the center of the cuff is at heart level
  • The cuff should be the appropriate size for your arm
  • Keep your feet flat on the floor
  • The cuff should be placed against your skin and not a sleeve
  • Rest for 5 minutes prior to taking a reading
  • Take two readings approximately 1-2 minutes apart
  • Record your readings and bring them to your doctor’s office

For more great tips on how to take your blood pressure speak to your pharmacist.

Helpful resources are also available through Hypertension Canada at www.hypertension.ca.  

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