High blood pressure is a “silent killer.” Hypertensive people are advised to monitor their blood pressure regularly to ensure that they are within non-life-threatening levels.

But this winter season, it’s a big hassle to go to clinics and hospitals to have your blood pressure checked by experts. Good thing there are now at-home devices to help monitor your blood pressure conveniently.

There are many types of blood pressure monitors available at pharmacies, medical supply stores and even online. But experts recommend an automatic or electronic device that is easy to use and provides results in seconds, according to Mayo Clinic.

The electronic blood pressure monitor typically only has two parts: an inflatable cuff and a digital gauge. The cuff is strapped around the arm, and it tightens with air to calculate heart rate and blood flow based on the changes in the motion of the artery. The digital gauge then reports the average result.

Cuff size is one of the factors to consider when buying a blood pressure monitoring device. Those that fit poorly won’t give accurate readings. People with large upper arms may also have trouble using devices with shorter cuffs. Experts recommend measuring blood pressure at the wrist or lower arm if their cuff size is limited.

How to Monitor Blood Pressure Properly

The American Heart Association has released a guide on how to use at-home devices to keep track of blood pressure.

  • The first step is to be still. Take rest for at least five minutes before measuring your blood pressure. It is strongly advised to empty the bladder before doing so.
  • Next, you need to sit properly with both your feet flat on the floor and your back straight and supported on a chair. The arms should be supported on a flat surface, and the upper arm of the hand with the cuff should be at heart level.
  • Check the instructions for your device before using it. The literature that comes with the packaging often has an illustration of how to use it. You may also ask a healthcare professional to demonstrate how to use the device beforehand.
  • It’s important to measure your blood pressure at the same time every day to monitor and keep track of possible changes within the week.
  • For hypertensive patients prescribed by their doctors to monitor their blood pressure regularly, it’s suggested to take multiple readings and record the results each time. Taking two or three readings one minute apart is recommended.

Things That Affect a Blood Pressure Reading

Some factors could affect a blood pressure reading. One of them is your position when taking your blood pressure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasized that sitting properly is the key to getting an accurate reading. Crossing the legs and allowing the arms to drop below heart level can elevate the result.

Food intake before a reading could also yield an erroneous result, similar to drinking alcohol and caffeine. Exercising 30 minutes before measuring your blood pressure is also a no-no.

Lastly, some people with “white coat syndrome” are prone to presenting a high blood pressure reading at the doctor’s office or clinic out of sheer nervousness.