Minor variations in blood pressure levels throughout the day are normal. But fluctuations that are too extreme and persist over a long period of time could indicate potential health issues. The measurements depend on a wide range of factors, and it is ideal to take several readings every day to get a more representative spectrum of the current situation.
Checking blood pressure at home is ideal for people who live with, or are at risk of, high blood pressure. But how often do you need to check it? Dr S. K. Mundra, HOD Internal Medicine at Saroj Super Speciality Hospital has this advice:
Every individual must check their blood pressure at least once every two years. If you have been diagnosed with pre-hypertension or borderline blood pressure where the BP ranges from 120-139 mmHg for systolic and 80-88 mmHg for diastolic, you must get your BP checked every year. For those with a reading of 140/90 mmHg or above, regular checks are mandatory as it indicates hypertension.
Patients with prolonged high blood pressure can and must monitor their levels at home daily. Blood pressure monitors are widely available in the market without prescription. You should check your blood pressure at least twice a day to prevent complications such as cardiovascular or kidney problems.
Here are some handy tips:
Self-measurement of blood pressure requires following certain steps :
- Take 2-3 measurements spaced one to two minutes apart, in the morning before breakfast and before taking your medication;
- Take 2-3 measurements spaced one to two minutes apart in the evening before going to bed;
- Repeat these measurements twice daily;
- Take an average of the two measurements, or both if the difference is vast, and record the reading(s) in your diary.
Each time, proceed as follows:
- Sit comfortably on a chair for five minutes.
- Place your arm slightly bent on a table, with the elbow at heart height (at chest level).
- Place the cuff on your bare upper arm above the elbow. Switch on the appliance; the cuff inflates and deflates automatically. During the measurement, you must not speak, move, or clench your fist.
- The monitor displays two values expressed in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). The first number, the highest, is systolic blood pressure (measured when the heart contracts to eject blood into the arteries). The second refers to the diastolic blood pressure (noted when the heart is relaxed and filled with blood).
- Write down these values carefully in a notebook, specifying the day, the time of measurement (morning or evening), and the time you took your medication if any. Or log the BP values directly into the app.
The morning blood pressure may be different from the afternoon one, which may be different from evening blood pressure level. Your doctor will want to see your exact blood pressure readings at different times of the day to help you manage your hypertension better.