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The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked. Checking your blood pressure is easy, quick and painless. Your blood pressure will be measured when you visit your health care provider, but you can also check your own blood pressure at home, or at a local pharmacy or grocery store.

…By your health care professional

To measure your blood pressure, your health care provider wraps a special cuff around your arm. Cuffs come in different sizes, and it will be important that the proper cuff size is used. The cuff is connected to a gauge that will measure your blood pressure. The cuff will be inflated to squeeze your arm, and then the air will slowly be released. The health care provider will listen to your pulse with a stethoscope and watch the blood pressure gauge. This gauge uses a scale called “millimeters of mercury” (mmHg) to measure the pressure in your blood vessels. Alternatively, an automated or digital device may be used.

Your provider will report your blood pressure as the systolic pressure over the diastolic pressure. Discuss with your provider what your target blood pressure level is. Your target (goal) blood pressure is:

________/________ mmHg

Your blood pressure can be affected by simple things like talking during the measurement or crossing your legs while the measurement is being taken. Before your blood pressure is measured in the office:

  • Do not eat, smoke, or exercise for at least 30 minutes; do not use any medicine that can raise blood pressure (i.e. nasal sprays).
  • Use the bathroom if you need to before getting your blood pressure checked.
  • Rest for at least 5 minutes before your blood pressure is measured. Sit in a comfortable, relaxed position with both feet on the floor.
  • Do not move or talk while the blood pressure is being measured.

Remember that your blood pressure changes throughout the day. Blood pressure is usually highest in the morning when you wake up and move around. Blood pressure usually decreases throughout the day, and is typically lowest at night. Blood pressure measurements may differ by as much as 10 to 20 mmHg between your right and left arm. Your health care provider will decide which arm to use for blood pressure measurements if that is the case (usually the arm with the higher readings).

Electronic devices are used more frequently to measure blood pressure in the office. There are specialized electronic devices that perform automated office blood pressure monitoring (AOBP). With AOBP, multiple blood pressure readings are recorded using a fully automated monitor while you are resting quietly and alone. Usually, three measurements are taken and the results are averaged. All the conditions noted above, in addition to proper cuff size and placement, are needed to ensure accurate readings with electronic devices.

…At your local pharmacy






Public blood pressure machines, such as those found in pharmacies, may provide helpful information about your blood pressure, but they may also have some limitations. The accuracy of these machines depends upon several factors, such as a correct cuff size and proper use of the machines. Ask your health care provider for advice on using public blood pressure machines.

…At home

How do you choose a home blood pressure monitoring device?

If you are buying your own blood pressure monitor to use at home, there are a few points to consider.

        • For most patients, arm cuffs are most accurate, but wrist cuffs are a good choice if you can’t find a cuff to fit your upper arm.
        • Finger cuffs on blood pressure monitors are less accurate and should not be used.

  • Monitors are available with larger displays that are easier to read.
  • Always purchase a monitor that has the correct cuff size for your upper arm. Most cuffs have lines showing whether they are of the proper length when wrapped around the arm.

The recommended cuff size for accurate measurement of blood pressure is shown in the table below.

Arm Circumference Recommended Cuff Size
22-26 cm 12 x 22 cm (small adult size)
27-34 cm 16 x 30 cm (regular adult size)
35-44 cm 16 x 36 cm (large adult size)

Ask your health care provider to measure your arm circumference.
Your arm circumference is:

__________ cm

The following devices are highly recommended by Consumer Reports and have been certified (confirmed to be accurate) by respected organizations. You can also check these websites to find devices that have been carefully tested: and Bring your blood pressure monitor to your healthcare provider’s office so it can be checked to be sure that it’s accurate in you.

  Product Price * Comments
Standard arm cuff Omron 3 series

Model # BP7100

Walmart: $32.84

Target: $32.99

Walgreens: $59.99 $29.99

  • Cuff fits standard and large arms
  • Stores up to 14 readings at a time
  • Requires 4 AA batteries
Fancy arm cuff Omron 10 series wireless

Model #

Walmart: $76.99

Walgreens: $99.99 $69.86


  • Automatically tests 3 consecutive readings one minute apart and calculates the average
  • Multi-colored BP level indicator lights
  • Stores up to 200 readings at a time
  • Wireless/Bluetooth connectivity
  • AC adapter included
Wrist cuff Omron 3 series

Model # BP6100

Walmart: $42.00

Target (7 series only): $58.99

Walgreens: $69.99 $42.00

  • Stores up to 60 readings at a time
  • Displays average of last 3 readings taken within 10 minutes
  • Fits wrists 5 ¼ inches to 8 ½ inches
  • Requires 2 AAA batteries (included)
  • Please note that the information in the table above, including pricing, is accurate as of October 2021.

How do I make sure I am measuring my blood pressure accurately?

Follow these steps to make sure that you are measuring your blood pressure accurately.

Before you take your blood pressure:

  • Do not measure your blood pressure within 30 minutes of smoking, drinking alcohol, eating, or vigorous exercise. Do not take decongestants for 30 minutes before you take your blood pressure.
  • Use the bathroom if you need to before taking your blood pressure.
  • Sit comfortably in a chair with your arm resting on a counter top or table at about the level of your heart.
  • Sit with your back supported while keeping your feet flat on the floor.
  • Remove clothing from the arm before applying the cuff.
  • Rest for 5 minutes before taking your blood pressure.

When you are ready to take your blood pressure:

  • Continue to sit with your back supported. Uncross your legs. Keep your feet flat on the floor.
  • Follow the instructions for your device. Put the cuff on by wrapping it around your bare arm above your elbow. Face the palm of your hand up to relax your arm muscles.
  • Rest your arm on a table or another flat surface at the level of your heart. Keep it stretched out and relaxed. Sit still.
  • Do not talk while taking your blood pressure.
  • Following the directions of the monitor you are using, press the button to start the machine. The cuff will inflate and slowly deflate by itself.

Recording your blood pressure

  • The machine will display two numbers. Write down both numbers, and the date and time of the measurement if the machine doesn’t store that information automatically. If there is a pulse recorded on the display, write that down too. Record every measurement (even if you think it is incorrect!).
  • Wait one minute and then repeat the steps. You should always check at least two measurements one minute apart and write them down. This is one set of blood pressure readings.
  • Make one set of blood pressure readings in the morning before taking your medications and another in the late afternoon before supper. Do this one or more days each week and then every day during the week prior to your next visit to your health care provider. Set a time to measure your blood pressure- don’t just do it when you feel poorly! And remember that blood pressure varies a lot from day to day and moment to moment, so don’t be alarmed by occasional high or low readings.

Remember to bring your record of blood pressure readings and your blood pressure monitor to your clinic appointments. Your health care provider may periodically check the accuracy of your home blood pressure device.

You may use this sheet to record your home blood pressure readings. You may not need to use it if your blood pressure device is able to store your readings, and you are able to share those readings with your health care provider.

…Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring

Your health care provider may advise that you undergo Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitoring (ABPM). ABPM is used to get a more accurate measurement of your average blood pressure during your usual daily activities and at night, or because you have different readings in the office compared to blood pressure readings at home, or for other reasons. You will wear a portable blood pressure monitor on your arm that will measure your blood pressure frequently over 24 hours. A report of your blood pressures during the day and night will be produced from the information obtained and stored in the recorder. Your health care provider will use this information to help manage your blood pressure.