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Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes
against the walls of your arteries as it moves through your body. It's normal
for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day, but if it stays up,
you have high blood pressure.
For your doctor
to confirm that you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure must be at
least 140/90 on three or more separate occasions. It is usually measured 1 to 2
Blood pressure is recorded as two measurements:
Blood pressures are measured in
millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Systolic pressure, the higher of the two
readings, is measured first. Diastolic pressure is the lower reading. For
example, if your systolic pressure is 120 mm Hg and your diastolic pressure is
80 mm Hg, your blood pressure is recorded as 120/80, or
"120 over 80."
Many people who have high blood pressure don't know
it, because it usually has no symptoms.
High blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other
problems. But if you don't measure your blood pressure, you won't know when it's
high, because there are usually no symptoms.
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so
measuring your blood pressure may be your only way to know that it is
Continue to Why?
When you take your own blood pressure, you can do it
at different times and in different places, such as at home, at
work, and when you travel. This helps your
When you have high blood pressure, taking your
own measurements can help you see how medicine
or lifestyle changes are helping to lower your blood pressure.
It can help you feel more involved in and more
in control of your own health care.
people have a big rise in blood
pressure only when they are in a doctor's office. This is called "white-coat
hypertension." It probably is caused by worry about the
doctor visit. By checking blood pressure at home, these
people can often find out whether their blood pressure readings generally are
lower when they are not in the doctor's office.
If I take my blood pressure at
home, I can help my doctor decide
whether I have high blood pressure and what effect my
By checking your blood
pressure at home, you can confirm whether you have high blood pressure. And you
can keep track of the effects of your medicine.
If you check your blood
pressure at home, you can help your doctor diagnose high
blood pressure and keep track of the effects of your
Continue to How?
There are two types of blood pressure
When you first get a blood pressure
device, check its accuracy. Do this by comparing
its readings with those you get at
the doctor's office. Ask your doctor or nurse to watch you
use your device to make sure that you are doing it right
and that it works right. It's a good idea to
have your device checked every year at the doctor's office.
The size of the
blood pressure cuff and where you place it can greatly
affect how accurate your device is. If the cuff is
too small or
too large, the results won't be right. You may have to measure your arm and choose a monitor that comes in the right size.
Measure blood pressure in your arm. Blood pressure monitors used on the wrist aren't as reliable as those that use arm cuffs. Wrist monitors should be used only by people who can't use arm cuffs for physical reasons. And devices that use finger monitors aren't recommended at all.2
Before you take your blood pressure:
Remember that blood pressure readings
vary throughout the day. They usually are highest in the morning after you wake
up and move around. They decrease throughout the day and
are lowest in the evening.
Everyone's blood pressure
changes from day to day and even from minute to minute sometimes. So taking
your own blood pressure works best when you also keep
Your doctor may give you a form to use, or you
can use a
home blood pressure loghome blood pressure log(What is a PDF document?).
diastolic pressures, the date, and time.
Also write down any medicine you take and
what time you take it. Record anything that causes you
stress. These records can help your doctor
make sure you get the right treatment.
The size and position of the blood pressure cuff can
affect the reading. I should check my blood pressure while I am seated in a
The size and position of the blood pressure
cuff can affect the blood pressure reading. It is important that the cuff fits
right and is placed on the widest part of the upper arm. Check your blood
pressure while you are seated in a comfortable
Continue to Where?
If you have questions about this information,
print it out and take it with you when you visit your
doctor. You may want to use a highlighter to mark areas or make notes in the
margins of the pages where you have questions.
If you would like more information on taking your blood
pressure, see the topic
Home Blood Pressure Test.
If you would like more information on high blood pressure, the
following resources are available:
Visit the American Heart Association (AHA) website for information on
physical activity, diet, and various heart-related conditions. You can search for information on heart disease and stroke, share information with friends and family, and use tools to help you make heart-healthy goals and plans. Contact the AHA to find your
nearest local or state AHA group. The AHA provides brochures and information
about support groups and community programs, including Mended Hearts, a
nationwide organization whose members visit people with heart problems and
provide information and support.
CardioSmart is an online education and support program that can be your partner in heart health. This website engages, informs, and empowers people to take part in their own care and to work well with their health care teams. It has tools and resources to help you prevent, treat, and/or manage heart diseases.
You can set health and wellness goals and track your progress with online tools. You can track your weight, waist measurement, blood pressure, and activity. You can use calculators to help you find your body mass index (BMI) and check your risk for heart problems. You can search for a cardiologist. And you can find medicine information and prepare for your next appointment. Also, you can join online communities to connect with peers and take heart-healthy challenges.
CardioSmart was designed by cardiovascular professionals at the American College of Cardiology, a nonprofit medical society. Members include doctors, nurses, and surgeons.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
(NHLBI) information center offers information and publications about preventing
Return to topic:
Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (2003). Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure JNC Express (NIH Publication No. 03–5233). Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
American Heart Association. (2005). Recommendations for blood pressure measurement in humans and experimental animals. Part 1: Blood pressure measurement in humans. AHA Scientific Statement. Hypertension, 45(1): 142–161.
April 5, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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