Approximately one-third of American adults struggles with high blood pressure. Learning how to check your blood pressure can help you lower your blood pressure and maintain a healthy heart.
What Do the Numbers Mean?
There are two numbers involved in a blood pressure reading: the systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure, or the top number, measures the pressure in the arteries with each heartbeat. Each beat is the maximum pressure produced by the heart.
The diastolic number, or bottom number, measures the pressure in the arteries between each heart beat. This resting time when the arteries are refilling with blood is the minimum amount of pressure produced by the heart.
The most common number you will see in reference to blood pressure is 120/80. This is a normal blood pressure and anything above this is considered hypertension or high blood pressure.
Blood pressure levels will be different for each person and largely depend on physical activity, diet, age, stress, and sex. A person’s blood pressure can change for better or worse by changing one of these variables.
How to Check Your Blood Pressure
Before getting your blood pressure measured, regardless of where you do it, be sure to avoid these at least 30 minutes before you measure:
Each of these will potentially spike your blood pressure and give a false reading of what your natural blood pressure is.
There are a few ways on how to check your blood pressure and each one will help you keep your levels in check.
The first way is by going to your doctor. Getting your blood pressure checked during any doctor visit is normal. Make sure to stay relaxed so that the reading can be accurate.
Having your doctor check your blood pressure is the easiest way to get an explanation of your reading and what it means for you. Be sure to ask when you should follow up with your doctor for another appointment.
The second way to check your blood pressure is by buying an at-home blood pressure monitor. These can be blood pressure monitor wrist straps or ones similar to what the doctor uses.
If you use this option, be sure to use a chair with a flat bottom and back (ie, not a couch) so that you can sit up straight. Rest your elbow on a table or counter and elevate your wrist so that it’s slightly more elevated than your heart.
This will help you get the best reading without any factors inhibiting blood flow.
The third way to check your blood pressure is by going to a pharmacy like Rite Aid or CVS that have a blood pressure monitor in-store and free for public use. These monitors are easy to use and take about a minute.
It also has a blood pressure chart next to where your numbers are displayed to show you where you fall with your levels. If you’re not sure how to check your blood pressure with this mechanism, feel free to ask an employee to show you.
As mentioned previously, be sure to not smoke, drink caffeine, exercise, or get stressed before checking your blood pressure so it’s as accurate as possible.
If you choose to check your blood pressure at home or at a pharmacy, be sure to contact your doctor if your levels are too high.