How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home

How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home

Add Sharecare to your blood pressure management toolbox.

At-home blood pressure monitoring is a good way to be actively involved in keeping your blood pressure under control. It also may provide a more accurate picture of your blood pressure than occasional measurements taken at the doctor's office. Studies show that home measurements, when taken correctly, are better predictors of cardiovascular risk than office measurements.

In addition, some people's blood pressure readings are considerably higher when measured by a doctor or nurse in a medical setting than when measured elsewhere. This is known as "white coat hypertension," and it's estimated to affect up to 30 percent of patients.

Doctors have long worried that the white coat effect leads to unnecessary treatment. If a patient is diagnosed with high blood pressure at the doctor's office, they may be given medications to lower it, when in fact their BP is normal.

But it’s possible white coat hypertension may be a bigger problem than that. A 2018 Spanish study of more than 63,000 mostly white patients found, compared to those with steadily normal blood pressure, people who experienced the effect had a 79 percent higher risk of death. The reasoning goes, white coat hypertension may signal that a person is prone to stress, which can have an effect on heart health. If a patient's blood pressure is affected by the anxiety of seeing a physician, it's likely affected by many other factors.

One thing doctors agree on is that home monitoring is the best way to measure a person's blood pressure. It can help determine whether a person's high blood pressure reading is accurate or is simply a result of the white coat effect.

Self-monitoring also may be used to help assess how well medications or lifestyle modifications are working. And there is evidence to suggest that home monitoring may help people reduce their blood pressure. The best way to monitor high blood pressure at home, according the US Preventive Services Task Force, is to wear a portable monitor for 12 to 24 hours after having an in-office test. It will take your blood pressure every 20 to 30 minutes—even when you're asleep.

Once you’ve measured, you can keep track of your systolic and diastolic numbers using Sharecare, available through iOS and Android. Convenient and easy to use, it tells you whether your reading is healthy, and helps you recognize changes over time—important for detecting conditions like hypertension. Here's how it works.

For Android and iOS users:

  • Blood pressure is tracked manually via the Tracker.
  • If you don’t have high blood pressure, you can turn off automatic tracking.

For desktop users:

  • Blood pressure is tracked manually via the desktop Tracker.
  • If you don’t have high blood pressure, you can turn off automatic tracking.

Choose the right blood pressure monitoring device
There are so many devices on the market for measuring blood pressure at home that it can be difficult to know which one to choose. Most people who measure their blood pressure at home use an automatic machine with a digital display. These are easy to use. The cuff inflates and deflates automatically, the numbers are clear and easy to read, and many machines can store and print multiple blood pressure readings. But they do have their downsides. Some are made for use on the left arm only, and they can be expensive.

Here are a few simple guidelines to help you choose the right blood pressure monitoring device:

  • Choose a device that measures blood pressure from your upper arm. Wrist and finger monitors are not accurate.
  • Choose a monitor with a display that's easy for you to read.
  • A monitor that can save, download, and print your readings is best for accurate record-keeping.
  • Before you buy, verify that the monitor you're considering has been independently tested, validated, and approved for home use. For a regularly updated list of validated home blood pressure monitors, visit the Web site of the dabl® Educational Trust.

Once you've bought a measuring device, make an appointment with your doctor and take the device with you. That way, if you have any questions about home monitoring or how to read blood pressure numbers, your doctor can provide guidance. Also, some monitors need to be calibrated or checked for accuracy on a regular basis. Your doctor should be able to do this for you.

For more detailed information on choosing and using a home blood pressure monitor, check out information from the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Keeping an eye on your blood pressure is an easy and effective way to monitor your health and prevent high blood pressure from sneaking up on you.

This content was updated on May 3, 2017, and April 24, 2018.