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What is Home Blood Pressure Monitoring?

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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 13 November 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Home blood pressure monitoring involves taking and keeping track of one's blood pressure at home, or away from the doctor's office. A physician will recommend that a patient keep track of his blood pressure for a few different reasons, but usually, the patient either has high blood pressure, known as hypertension, or is at risk for developing high blood pressure. There are a few types of devices that can be purchased to monitor blood pressure at home, and they vary greatly in price, ease of use, and accuracy.

A patient monitoring blood pressure at home helps a doctor to more closely monitor his blood pressure. By looking at all of the blood pressure readings between appointments, the doctor can determine an average blood pressure and whether the patient has, or is risk of, hypertension. For example, sometimes a patient's blood pressure may be higher or lower in the office than it normally is. Monitoring blood pressure at home also can help a doctor tell if a particular hypertension treatment is working, or if it needs adjusted or abandoned altogether.

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Many patients opt for a digital home blood pressure monitoring device. Using these types of blood pressure monitoring devices is usually quite simple. After the cuff is put snugly on the arm, it is inflated, either manually using a rubber bulb or by simply pressing a button. Blood pressure is recorded automatically by the machine, and the patient only has to sit still while it records a reading. Some digital blood pressure monitoring devices even allow a patient to store past readings, eliminating the need to write them down.

Aneroid home blood pressure monitoring devices generally cost less than digital ones, but they can be much more difficult to use. These machines usually consist of an inflatable cuff, a built-in stethoscope, a gauge to measure blood pressure, and a rubber bulb with a release valve, which inflates and deflates the cuff. After the patient straps the cuff on to his arm, the ear pieces to the stethoscope are then put into place and the disk to the stethoscope is placed on the inside of the elbow.

Once everything is in place, the cuff is then inflated very quickly using the rubber bulb. It should be inflated until the needle on the gauge goes well past the reading of the patient's last systolic blood pressure reading. This is the top, first, or higher number of the last blood pressure reading.

While deflating the arm cuff very slowly using the valve on the bulb, he can then listen for his heartbeat, or pulse, in the stethoscope and make note of the number that the needle on the gauge points to. This number is the systolic portion of the blood pressure reading. The diastolic portion of a blood pressure reading is recorded when the heartbeat can't be heard through the stethoscope anymore.

Some patients can even opt for a home blood pressure monitoring system with a cuff that is placed on the wrist instead of the arm. These cuffs are not recommended for the average patients, as they are not considered to be as accurate. Often, patients with arms that are too large for a normal arm cuff, or otherwise can't use a regular arm cuff will use these types of blood pressure monitoring devices.

Before testing blood pressure at home, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, the patient should not eat, smoke cigarettes, or drink any caffeinated or alcoholic beverages at least a half hour prior to testing. He should also rest for a few minutes before using a home blood pressure monitoring device and remain still throughout the testing. A cuff that fits properly on the left arm is strongly recommended to get accurate readings, and it should fit snugly on the arm, roughly 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) above the elbow.

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