As discussed in earlier posts, hypertension (high blood pressure) can affect anyone, including children and adolescents.Worldwide, there are an estimated one billion with hypertension. In the U.S., about one-quarter of the adult population has hypertension or takes blood pressure medicine. In patients who might have hypertension, your doctor might suggest obtaining readings at home before deciding on whether to start treatment for hypertension. In patients already on treatment, your doctor might ask you to bring in readings from home to assist him or her in managing your high blood pressure.
Taking your blood pressure at home is not difficult. Most modern home blood pressure kits come with an automatic or electronic readout, which can make it even easier. It is important, however, to bring the kit in to your doctor so that it can be checked for accuracy. Some store-bought kits are not accurate. Click here to view a video on monitoring your blood pressure at home.
It is important that the blood pressure cuff that you use is the correct size.
Using the incorrect size can cause readings that are falsely high (using too small a cuff) or falsely low (using too large a cuff). The American Heart Association recommends comparing the length of the bladder inside the cuff with the circumference around the upper arm- the length of the bladder should be at least 80% of the arm’s circumference. Remember to remove clothing from the arm before you try to measure your blood pressure.
If you don’t purchase an electronic kit, you can still monitor your own blood pressure- using a stethoscope like your doctor usually does. The same instructions as using the automated kits apply, but you or someone else will need to inflate the cuff, then deflate it while listening for the Korotkoff sounds. The systolic, or top number, is the first appearance of faint clear tapping sounds (for two consecutive beats). The diastolic, or bottom number, is the reading when all sounds completely disappear.
You can learn more about hypertension and blood pressure monitoring here, from the American Heart Association.