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When And How To Measure Blood Pressure

Regular use of a home blood pressure monitor can help people better understand their blood pressure fluctuations. It can also allow people to identify episodes of morning hypertension.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommend using a cuff-style blood pressure monitor. These monitors are more reliable than monitors that attach to the finger or wrist.
The AHA also provide the following guidelines for measuring blood pressure at home:

Before measuring blood pressure:

  • Empty the bladder.
  • Rest comfortably and quietly for 5 minutes before measuring blood pressure.
  • Avoid smoking, drinking alcohol, or exercising within 30 minutes of measuring blood pressure.

When measuring blood pressure:

  • Take readings at the same time each day.
  • Sit with the back straight, legs uncrossed, and feet flat on the floor.
  • Rest the arm on a flat surface so that the upper arm is at heart level.
  • Place the cuff on the arm so that the bottom of the cuff is directly above the elbow crease.
  • Take two or three readings approximately 1 minute apart and calculate the average value.
  • Keep a record of all readings, as this can help a doctor determine the best course of treatment.

High blood pressure typically does not cause symptoms, even when levels are dangerously high.

Certain symptoms are more common in people with hypertension. However, they do not necessarily occur as a direct result of hypertension. These symptoms include:

  • blood spots in the eyes
  • facial flushing
  • dizziness

The diagnosis of high blood pressure in the morning typically relies on a person's self-reported readings.

Depending on what these readings show, a doctor may recommend a 24 hour blood pressure monitoring test. This test involves wearing a device that takes regular blood pressure readings throughout the day and night.

The doctor will also review the person's medical history and carry out a physical examination. If necessary, they may order additional tests to confirm or rule out a diagnosis. Examples include:

  • an echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound of the heart
  • an electrocardiogram (EKG) to trace the heart's electrical activity
  • blood tests
  • urine tests

Is it dangerous?

People with morning hypertension are at higher risk of cardiovascular events than those with normal morning blood pressure readings.

Getting morning hypertension under control can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, among other cardiovascular events.

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