To begin, you’ll need a blood pressure monitor capable of tracking your heart rate. There are dozens of models on the market. But for best accuracy and ease of use, buy a validated monitor. In order for a monitor to be validated, it must meet a series of testing standards to ensure accuracy. The monitor should have a cuff for the upper arm (not the wrist or finger) that automatically inflates. If possible, purchase a monitor that automatically records your pressures and heart rate. Ask your provider for specific recommendations.
To ensure an accurate reading, follow these steps:
- Do not check your blood pressure within 30 minutes of:
- Drinking caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, soda)
- Drinking alcoholic beverages
- Sit quietly for five minutes before you measure your blood pressure.
- During the measurement, sit in a chair with your feet flat on the floor, not crossed, and your arm supported so your elbow is at about heart level.
- Make sure the inflatable part of the cuff completely covers at least 80% of your upper arm (if it doesn’t you need a larger cuff). Place the cuff on bare skin, not over a shirt.
- Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for taking your blood pressure. Sit still and quiet while the cuff inflates and deflates.
- Measure your blood pressure twice, with a brief break (about 1–5 minutes) in between, do not get up in between readings. If the readings are different by 5 points or more, measure it a third time.
Your provider will tell you when and how often to measure your blood pressure and heart rate.
Many blood pressure monitors store a week’s worth of readings, or more. Certain models will even automatically and wirelessly deliver each reading to your computer or smartphone. If yours doesn’t, keep a record.
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