8 Things to Know About Blood Pressure Home Monitors

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Lorna Collier on September 7, 2020
  • checking blood pressure
    A Guide to Checking Your Blood Pressure at Home
    High blood pressure is linked to 360,000 deaths annually. About one-third of Americans—70 million people—have it, and only half are able to keep it under control. One problem: blood pressure varies throughout the day. How can you know whether you need medication or how your medications are working, without running off to the doctor's office for readings? Answer: by measuring your own blood pressure, using home monitors. Here's what's important to know about these handy gadgets.
  • Woman talking to doctor in hospital
    1. Home monitors can help you avoid unnecessary treatment.
    Some people get stressed in the doctor's office, so their blood pressure is higher than normal. This "white coat syndrome" can result in unnecessary treatment. If you measure your blood pressure at home under non-stressful conditions, you can bring in a log of readings to show your doctor, who can use this information for a more accurate diagnosis. If you are on medication, home monitoring can show how well the treatment is working and let your doctor know if adjustments need to be made.
  • Senior man controlling his blood pressure at home
    2. Monitors with upper-arm cuffs are more reliable.
    Picking a machine can be tough due to all the options available today. You can choose between wireless monitors, monitors that measure pressure at your wrist or fingers, non-wireless automated upper-arm machines, and traditional manual monitors. Studies say upper-arm measuring is more reliable than wrist or finger measuring. You can see if your machine is validated for accuracy by checking the website of a consumer group called the dabl Educational Trust.
  • Male taking blood pressure
    3. Be sure to get the right cuff size.
    Most home blood pressure machines use an upper arm cuff, but these come in various sizes. If you get the wrong size--too big or too small—your readings will be off, which defeats the purpose of home monitoring. Your cuff will have indicators on it that show where your arm should fit. If you have questions, your doctor's office or pharmacist can help make sure you get the right cuff size. 
  • Doctor examining female Senior patient
    4. Test your machine at your doctor’s office.
    It's a good idea to take your home monitor to your doctor's office at your next checkup to verify two things: that the machine is accurate (its readings match what your doctor's machine shows) and that you are putting it on and using it properly. You should check your machine with your doctor about every year or so to make sure it is still accurate.
  • Person Eating Lunch Looking At Fitness App On Mobile Phone
    5. Wireless and smartphone-enabled machines make recordkeeping easier.
    Some machines plug into your smartphone or connect wirelessly to deliver a log of your blood pressure readings directly to your device. You can then print this out or email it to your doctor's office. If your machine doesn't have this functionality, you can record the numbers yourself in an app or write them down in a notebook. Whichever way you do it, be sure to keep track of all your readings, along with the date and time they were taken.
  • Mother and daughter using computer
    6. On the other hand, wireless monitors have some drawbacks.
    Wireless monitors sync via Bluetooth to your computer or smartphone to automatically save your readings. But they require basic computer knowledge and reliable wifi, will need software updates periodically, and are relatively expensive ($100 or so). One study showed 28%of wireless monitor users experienced malfunctions requiring tech support.
  • Medic caring for senior woman at home
    7. There are specific steps to follow for an accurate home blood pressure reading.
    Sit comfortably, feet apart (no crossed legs), for about 5 minutes with no talking. Avoid food, caffeine, alcohol, exercise or tobacco for 30 minutes before taking your pressure. Make sure your cuffed arm is at the level of your heart (you may need to put a pillow under it). Relax. Take your pressure, then rest 2 to 3 minutes and take it again; repeat. Three readings make for a good average; try at different times of day (such as morning and night).
  • Woman checking blood pressure in living room
    8. Contact your doctor if your readings rise.
    Your doctor may have specific guidelines regarding numbers to watch for while taking your blood pressure, depending on your condition and medications. In general, you want your blood pressure to be below 120/80. If it goes above this but below 140/90, you're considered to be prehypertensive; above 140/90 is hypertension. If you see a spike of 180 (top number) or 110 (bottom number), this is a hypertensive crisis and you need to call 911 or go to the hospital right away.
8 Things to Know About Blood Pressure Home Monitors

About The Author

Lorna Collier has been reporting on health topics—especially mental health and women’s health—as well as technology and education for more than 25 years. Her work has appeared in the AARP Bulletin, Chicago Tribune, U.S. News, CNN.com, the APA’s Monitor on Psychology, and many others. She’s a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Association of Health Care Journalists.
  1. High Blood Pressure Facts. Centers for Disease Control. http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/docs/fs_bloodpressure.pdf
  2. Blood Pressure Monitoring at Home. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/diagnosis-tests/blood-pressure-monitoring-at-home.printerview.all.html
  3. High blood pressure (hypertension). Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/ART-20047889?p=1
  4. How accurate are wrist blood pressure monitors? Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/wrist-blood-pressure-monitors/faq-20057802
  5. Goldberg EM and Levy PD. New approaches to Evaluating and Monitoring Blood Pressure. Current Hypertension Readings. June 2016. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11906-016-0650-9

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 7
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.