The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that you monitor your own blood pressure if you have hypertension (high blood pressure). The AHA reports on a study involving 430 people with hypertension by W. J. Verbek in the Netherlands. Verbek found that people who self-monitored blood pressure were more successful at lowering their blood pressure and need for medications. The Mayo Clinic notes that self-monitoring assists your physician with accurately diagnosing and treating your hypertension, decreasing costs related to office visits and providing a more realistic record of your blood pressure variations. You should keep an accurate and easily readable record of your blood pressure.
Take your blood pressure every couple of hours 3 or 4 times to determine your typical blood pressure before making your chart. Mayo Clinic notes that blood pressure is highest in the early morning, so midmorning is a good time to begin. Your blood pressure has an upper number (systolic) and a lower (diastolic). Take the highest systolic number and the lowest diastolic number as your baseline blood pressure. Thus, readings of 150/94, 146/92, and 148/90 would give you a baseline of 150/90.
Plan the components of your chart. You need place for a date (and time if you take your blood pressure more than once daily), a place for your blood pressure and pulse reading and a graph of your blood pressure. Your graph should include numbers 20 digits higher than your baseline systolic reading and 20 digits lower than your diastolic; so if your baseline is 150/90, your graph must have a range from 170 (systolic) to 70 (diastolic), because blood pressure can vary from one reading to the next.
Create the chart using lined paper. Draw vertical lines to create columns or make a simple table on a computer and print it out. The left-hand column contains the word "Date" at the top and then numbers down the page starting with 170 and ending with 70 in five-digit increments. The last two rows at the bottom are for you to write your blood pressure and pulse numbers.
Take your blood pressure and pulse (beats per minute) at the same time everyday when you are rested and relaxed. Your doctor may want you to begin checking your blood pressure in the morning and evening or once daily; but as your blood pressure stabilises, you will probably need to check less frequently. Write the blood pressure and pulse at the bottom of the chart.
Graph your blood pressure. For example, if your blood pressure is 150/90 you will place a dot in the first column by 150 and another dot by 90.
The second time you check your blood pressure (145/88), you will put a dot at 145 and estimate where 88 falls, putting a dot right under the 90 line. Take a ruler and connect the two systolic numbers and the two diastolic numbers.
Manual blood pressure cuffs are hard to use, so your best choice, according to the New York City Health Department, is an automated cuff that fits about the upper arm (brachial cuff) and has a digital readout. Brachial cuffs are usually more accurate than finger or wrist cuffs.
If your blood pressure shows a pattern of increasing or suddenly spikes upward, notify your physician.
Tips and warnings
- Manual blood pressure cuffs are hard to use, so your best choice, according to the New York City Health Department, is an automated cuff that fits about the upper arm (brachial cuff) and has a digital readout. Brachial cuffs are usually more accurate than finger or wrist cuffs.
- If your blood pressure shows a pattern of increasing or suddenly spikes upward, notify your physician.