Key Points about Blood Pressure Monitoring
- Blood pressure monitoring checks the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps blood through them. This information lets your doctor know if your cardiovascular system is healthy and performing as expected.
- There are simple blood pressure machines available that are easy to use and your insurance plan may cover the cost.
- If you are diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), you may need to undergo blood pressure monitoring more often.
We perform blood pressure monitoring as part of an annual physical exam in your doctor’s office. If you are diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure), you may need to undergo blood pressure monitoring more often. If you are hospitalized, you may receive blood pressure monitoring throughout your hospitalization and before undergoing a surgical procedure.
Candidates for blood pressure monitoring
You may need to undergo regular blood pressure monitoring if you:
- Are African-American
- Are obese
- Are over age 40
- Have a family history of heart disease
- Have chronic (long-lasting) health conditions
If you have any of the above risk factors, your doctor may recommend using a blood pressure machine to check your blood pressure at home each day. There are simple blood pressure machines available that are easy to use and your insurance plan may cover the cost. Speak with your doctor about whether checking your blood pressure at home should be part of your heart health care plan.
Preparations for blood pressure monitoring
- You should try to avoid smoking, exercising or having drinks with caffeine for at least 30 minutes before undergoing blood pressure monitoring.
- You may want to wear a short-sleeved shirt for the exam so that the nurse can easily access your upper arm.
- You should tell your doctor about all medications and supplements you take, as some can affect blood pressure.
Expectations from blood pressure monitoring
You will be seated in a chair for the test. A nurse will secure a fabric cuff snuggly around your upper arm with Velcro. The nurse uses a hand pump to inflate the cuff with air. As this happens, you will feel the cuff tighten around your arm. The nurse uses a stethoscope placed just below the cuff to listen to your blood flow and pressure. Blood pressure monitoring takes only about one minute to complete.
Recovery after blood pressure monitoring
Your blood pressure is measured using two numbers. The top number – known as systolic – measures the pressure of the blood flow when your heart contracts to pump blood. The bottom number – known as diastolic – measures the pressure between heartbeats. A normal blood pressure reading includes a systolic of between 90 and 120 mm Hg and a diastolic of between 60 and 80 mm Hg.
If your blood pressure reading is high or low, you may need to return to your doctor’s office for additional evaluations or you may need to take your blood pressure at home over time. If your doctor determines that your blood pressure is too high or low, they may prescribe medication or recommend lifestyle modifications. Depending on your lifestyle, these may include quitting smoking, exercising more frequently or eating a low-sodium diet. These steps will help return your blood pressure to a healthy range.
When should I seek care?
If you think you may need to undergo this test, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment.