If you’ve been told to keep an eye on your blood pressure, you’re in luck. With affordable, accurate, and easy-to-use devices now widely available, it’s never been easier to monitor blood pressure at home.
In this article I’ll explain the benefits to at-home monitoring, share tips for getting the most accurate reading, and review a self-monitoring blood pressure device newly promoted by physical therapists Bob & Brad.
The Benefits of Monitoring Blood Pressure at Home
Whether or not it’s “doctor’s orders,” regularly checking your blood pressure at home is a healthy habit. Otherwise, if you wait until you’re back in your doctor’s office, your blood pressure could go unchecked for months. That’s really not a good strategy.
But besides increased frequency, at-home monitoring generally yields more accurate results. That’s because of a phenomenon called “white coat syndrome”: simply being in a clinical setting affects your blood pressure. The reading taken at the doctor’s office will most likely be higher than what you’d get at home.
White coat syndrome isn’t a mind game; it makes sense physically. Doctor appointments are usually rushed, and you may have even rushed yourself to arrive on time. Plus, the environment itself can affect your blood pressure. When you’re at home, you’re in a relaxed, familiar space – as opposed to a closed-in, sterile medical environment.
That’s not to say that the BP readings your doctor takes are useless. But a record of at-home blood pressure data will help your provider interpret the results. Instead of relying on that one measurement in the clinic, you and your provider will have a “bigger picture” based on the consistent blood pressure readings you recorded at home.
Bob and Brad’s Blood Pressure Monitor
Monitoring blood pressure at home is not only enormously beneficial, it’s really easy to do.
There are many blood pressure monitors available for purchase, but I like this brand new one from fellow physical therapists Bob & Brad. Their high-quality device is built to deliver accurate blood pressure readings all year long.
I’ll share a few more things I liked about this monitor before I explain how to use it.
At first glance, the monitor resembles one that you would spy at your local drug store or in your doctor’s office. I like that it’s small and lightweight, which makes it portable. It even comes with a small carrying case.
Despite its compact size, the cuff is plenty long for most patients and the display screen is nearly five inches, like the one on your smartphone. This large screen is also backlit, so you can use the monitor at night or in low-light situations.
The screen operates via 3 AA batteries, but you can also recharge it through a USB C port.
This little device delivers exceptionally accurate results for upper-arm blood pressure readings.
Of course, small details such as placement and environmental stressors can skew that reading. But that’s the case for any blood pressure monitor, so it’s really important that you follow the tips in this article to get the most reliable reading.
After using it several times, the readings I got from this blood pressure monitor were all replicable and consistent.
After examining all these features and taking stock of the quality of this instrument, you’d expect it to be expensive. Yet, the Bob & Brad blood pressure monitor costs just $35 on Amazon (though with this coupon you can get it for less than 30!).
Perhaps one of the best features about this machine is its budget-friendly price point. Monitoring blood pressure is extremely important, and cost shouldn’t be a prohibitive factor to maintaining good habits at home.
Taking your blood pressure manually requires several steps; however, a tool like the Bob & Brad blood pressure monitor makes this vital habit supremely easy.
At the touch of a button, the monitor displays not only your blood pressure numbers but also your pulse, the time and date, and average values for previous readings. Plus, it can store up to 120 sets of measurement data for 2 users.
Finally, this blood pressure monitor can “talk.” (Or not, if you prefer.) Based on your measurements, the machine can read aloud your numbers and include an interpretation if you’re unsure what a “good” blood pressure reading should be.
So let’s dive in on how you’d use this machine, or something similar.*
*No matter the device, always read its accompanying instructions before use!
How to Take Your Blood Pressure
First, the set up:
- Sit tall in a chair, with your back supported and feet flat on the floor.
- If you’re wearing a long-sleeved shirt, roll it up. But for utmost accuracy, wear a short-sleeved shirt so that your arm is less restricted and the cuff is directly on your skin.
- Slide your arm into the cuff, keeping it at heart level so you can ensure a consistent reading each day. The cuff on this model includes artery markings and an arrow to point towards your shoulder.
- Secure the Velcro and support your arm in a neutral position with your palm up. The cuff should be snug around your arm but not too tight – not yet at least.
Once you’re ready to take your blood pressure, you can proceed with the following steps:
- Press Start.
- That’s it.
I told you it’s simple.
After pressing the Start button, you’ll feel the cuff begin to inflate around your arm. If you’ve had your blood pressure taken before, you know a tight squeezing is normal, so don’t be alarmed by that.
Once the cuff reaches peak pressure, it will automatically deflate and display the blood pressure reading on the screen.
How to Read Your Blood Pressure
The reading will show 2 numbers:
- The top number is the systolic pressure, or the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when your heart is at rest.
The whole point of taking your blood pressure is to interpret the results – whether your blood pressure is normal, elevated, or dangerously high.
Below is a chart for interpreting your blood pressure numbers:
Anything over 180/120 is considered a hypertensive crisis. If the device reads a number this high or higher, wait a few minutes and take it again; it could be a mistake. But if repeat readings continue to be this high, wait no longer and contact your healthcare provider right away.
Tips for Taking your Blood Pressure at Home
Regardless of the blood pressure monitor you use, there are some things you can do to make sure you’re getting the most accurate, consistent readings possible.
- Take two measurements, one in the morning and one at night, at the same time and in the same place.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after exercising to check your blood pressure in case it’s still elevated.
- Wait at least 30 minutes after eating a big meal, drinking caffeine, or smoking. Each of these activities can interfere with the reading.
- Take your blood pressure reading before you take any blood pressure medication.
- Keep a log of your readings and bring it with you, along with the actual device, to your next doctor’s appointment.
Despite following these tips, every now and then you may get a reading that seems really off. When that happens, make sure the cuff is attached to your arm appropriately (revisit the “setup steps” above), wait a couple of minutes, and recheck your blood pressure.
Bob & Brad Blood Pressure Monitor: Accurate and Affordable
Blood pressure warrants a watchful eye, and monitoring it at home can help you keep tabs on it. But you won’t achieve consistent, accurate results without a high-quality unit like the Bob & Brad monitor.
Most units like this one retail for around $40 to $50, but with this coupon you can get the same monitor I use for less than $30 on Amazon. With their famously fast shipping, the device will arrive in no time, and you’ll get a jump start to your new healthy habit.