A blood pressure test measures the pressure in your arteries as your heart pumps. You might have a blood pressure test as a part of a routine doctor's appointment or as a screening for high blood pressure (hypertension). Some people use a blood pressure test at home to better track their heart health.
A blood pressure test is a routine part of most doctor appointments. Blood pressure screening is an important part of your general health. Find out when you should have a blood pressure test.
Your doctor may also suggest checking your blood pressure at home. Automated home blood pressure monitors are available and easy to use. Some can be connected to your computer or cellphone, making it easy to transfer the information to an online medical record. Ask your doctor if this is an option for you.
It's a good idea to keep a blood pressure log at home and have your doctor check your monitor once a year to make sure you are getting accurate readings.
Home blood pressure monitoring isn't a substitute for visits to your doctor.
A blood pressure test is simple, quick and usually painless. However, the blood pressure cuff squeezes your arm while it inflates. Some people find this slightly uncomfortable. The feeling lasts for only a few seconds.
No special preparations are usually needed for a blood pressure test. But the following steps may help your doctor get the most accurate measurement:
Usually, a nurse or technician takes your blood pressure while you are seated in a chair with your feet flat on the floor.
You rest your arm on a table at the level of your heart.
The blood pressure cuff is wrapped around the top part of your arm. The bottom of the cuff is just above your elbow. It's important that the cuff fits. Readings can vary if the cuff is too big or too small.
Some blood pressure cuffs automatically inflate and measure your pulse. In this case, a stethoscope is not needed.
It takes about one minute to get a blood pressure measurement.
If your blood pressure is high or low, you'll need to have at least three more blood pressure tests, spaced at least a week apart, to determine if you need treatment. Blood pressure can vary from moment to moment and day to day.
Your doctor, nurse or technician can tell you your blood pressure results immediately after the test.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A blood pressure measurement has two numbers:
Here's a look at blood pressure categories and what they mean. If your top and bottom numbers fall into two different ranges, your correct blood pressure category is the higher one.
|Top number (systolic) in mm Hg||And/or||Bottom number (diastolic) in mm Hg||Your category*|
|Below 90||or||Below 60||Low blood pressure† (hypotension)|
|Below 120||and||Below 80||Normal blood pressure|
|120-129||and||Below 80||Elevated blood pressure|
|130-139||or||80-89||Stage 1 high blood pressure (hypertension)|
|140 or more||or||90 or more||Stage 2 high blood pressure (hypertension)|
If you have high blood pressure, making a few lifestyle changes can improve your heart health.
If lifestyle changes do not successfully manage your blood pressure, your doctor may recommend medication. If you have low blood pressure, your symptoms will depend on the cause. Together, you and your doctor can discuss the best treatment for you.