What's the Best Time to Take Your Blood Pressure?

Keeping track of your blood pressure is an effective preventive method that can be done at home. Although anyone can access and buy a blood pressure monitor, many times there are doubts about the best time to measure. Today we answer it and give you additional advice.
What's the Best Time to Take Your Blood Pressure?

Last update: 16 July, 2021

It’s an excellent habit to take your blood pressure on a regular basis in order to prevent potential health problems. It isn’t only a recommended method for hypertensive people, as all adults should know how it can warn us of any imbalances.

Although the acquisition and access to blood pressure monitors today is very easy for millions of people, doubts remain about how they’re used and, more importantly, when is the ideal time to carry out the measurement. Today, we’ll explain what criteria to take into account when taking blood pressure and why you should do it relatively frequently.

Take your blood pressure: understanding the readings

Taking your blood pressure at home is easy
Knowing which blood pressure values aren’t normal is important in order to know when to see a doctor.

The first thing you should know is that blood pressure varies throughout the day. Its values vary according to your diet, what you drink, the activities you’re doing, or how anxious you are. Due to the latter, patients often experience a condition called white coat hypertension.

Following the indications of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the American Heart Association (AHA), we can estimate that blood pressure is normal when it’s 120/80 mmHg.

Small falls or rises are also considered normal. The first number corresponds to the systolic pressure (when the heart contracts), and the second to the diastolic pressure (when it relaxes).

Based on this primary value, other readings can be determined. If you plan to take your blood pressure on your own, with a friend, or learn about the condition, pay attention to the following:

  • High: Blood pressure is considered high when the values for systolic pressure range between 120 and 129 mmHg, with a diastolic pressure equal to or less than 80 mmHg. It doesn’t mean that those with these traits are hypertensive, but it does mean that they’re more likely to be in the future. It’s often called prehypertension.
  • Stage 1 hypertension: This occurs when the results vary between 130-139 mmHg and 80-89 mmHg for the systolic and diastolic, respectively. People with these spectra are at risk for heart and cerebrovascular conditions. It’s usually counteracted by a change in lifestyle and when people take drugs.
  • Stage 2 hypertension: In this case, the values are equal to or greater than 140/90 mmHg. Very often, the combination of several antihypertensive drugs is chosen. Changes in diet and physical activity can also be effective.
  • Hypertensive crisis: A hypertensive crisis is when pressure is equal to or greater than 180/120 mmHg. It can occur without organ damage (hypertensive emergency) and with organ damage (hypertensive emergency). This last condition can be fatal.

How and when to take your blood pressure at home

Now that you know about the values, you can now take your blood pressure. You will do this with the help of a blood pressure monitor, preferably one that covers your arm. There are many factors that can condition the results. To take the measurement, Harvard Health Publishing recommends the following:

  • Don’t drink or smoke 30 minutes before testing.
  • Take the pressure only when you have spent 5 minutes in silence and sitting without moving.
  • At the time of taking the blood pressure your feet should be on the ground and your elbow close to the heart.
  • Avoid talking during measurement.
  • Take two measurements one minute apart. If the difference is greater than 5 points, take a third measurement.
  • The cuff must be placed directly on the skin and cover at least 80% of the arm.

Differences in measurements

An erroneous measurement can cause a difference of 10% of the obtained values. Due to this, high or low values can be obtained regardless of the true one. Taking the above into account will achieve more objective results.

Once you consider the above, you’re ready to proceed with the test. As we already indicated, backed by evidence, blood pressure values can fluctuate by as much as 30% throughout the day.

If a specialist has suggested a home blood pressure monitoring (MDPA), the best time to do it is during the morning, just after waking up, and at night.

The exact time will depend on your habits and possibilities. For example, if you tend to come home very late or get up early. It’s very unusual to diagnose high blood pressure with just one reading.

At least three confirmations, separated by a week apart, are necessary for the doctor to consider that there are imbalances in it and for them to start applying  treatment.

In this way, you should monitor your levels for several days in a row for three weeks. Always try to do it at the same time, as accurately as you can. It isn’t recommended to take it after doing physical activity, after eating or after ingesting caffeine, alcohol or energy drinks.

Advantages of blood pressure monitoring at home

Taking blood pressure at home can diagnose hypertension
Taking measurements at home allows you to obtain reliable measurements, as long as you have the right equipment and follow the correct technique.

You may be monitoring your blood pressure levels because you suspect that you have hypertension or are part of the risk groups.

Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, also known as ABPM, is used as a general procedure. However, evidence suggests that its home variant, MDPA, may be just as effective in diagnosis.

The results must be kept in a record, which you’ll share with the doctor for further analysis. Among the advantages of opting for this method we find the following:

  • Avoid disturbances due to anxiety resulting from the office visit.
  • It can be carried out from the comfort of home with the help of a blood pressure monitor.
  • It doesn’t take great expertise to do it (you just have to follow the instructions above and those of the doctor).
  • It’s possible to do it on your own or with the help of a third party.
  • It allows adapting the tests to the disposition and habits of each patient.
  • It’s a tool for the detection and subsequent control of hypertension.

Pandemic characteristics

Hypertension is today considered a disease with pandemic characteristics. According to studies, it causes more than 10 million deaths a year. Research suggests that more than 1.3 billion people have it; this is 1 in 5 people.

The risk of developing cardiovascular, renal, and cerebrovascular diseases as a direct consequence of high blood pressure is widely documented. If you have a history of hypertension in your family, or if you’re obese, do little physical activity and don’t eat a balanced diet, the chances of suffering from it or developing it with complications are greater.

For all this, it’s helpful to make periodic pressure measurements. The frequency will depend on several factors, but at a minimum, it should be carried out once a year. In case of detecting any imbalance, you should never opt for self-medication.

Only a qualified professional can interpret the data in context, determine possible underlying causes, and indicate treatment.

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