High blood pressure raises the chance of heart failure, heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure. People often do not know that they have high blood pressure. There are usually no symptoms until health problems happen. For this reason, adults should have their blood pressure checked at every appointment. Children aged three years and older should have their blood pressure checked at least once every year.
For people who are being treated for high blood pressure, measurements can show how well treatment is working.
When you take someone's blood pressure, you record two measurements:
If you are caring for someone in a clinical setting, follow these steps to measure the person's blood pressure:
Q. Can a person take their blood pressure at home?
A. Yes. But blood pressure measurements done at home may be lower or higher than the true blood pressure. This can happen if the cuff is an inexpensive one or if the person measuring the blood pressure does not have a lot of practice.
Q. At what time of day should blood pressure be measured?
A. Blood pressure can be measured at any time of the day.
Q. What are normal blood pressure readings?
A. In adults, normal systolic pressure is less than 120 mmHg and normal diastolic pressure is less than 80 mmHg. High blood pressure is most often defined as a systolic pressure more than 140 mmHg and a diastolic pressure more than 90 mmHg.
Q. What factors can affect a person's blood pressure reading?
There are many factors that can affect a reading. Some examples are feeling anxious, drinking alcohol, smoking, exercising, and being in a noisy setting.
Q. Are there any risks involved in measuring one’s blood pressure?
A. There are almost no risks involved in blood pressure measurement. If someone has kidney failure and is getting regular dialysis through a shunt in the arm, then always check the blood pressure on the opposite arm.
American Heart Association
National Heart Lung and Blood Institute
Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation
Blood pressure measurement and monitoring. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115105/Blood-pressure-measurement-and-monitoring. Updated September 27, 2018. Accessed November 6, 2018.
How to measure blood pressure, and what it all means. Santa Monica College website. Available at: http://homepage.smc.edu/wissmann_paul/anatomy1/1bloodpressure.html. Accessed November 6, 2017.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension. Updated October 15, 2018. Accessed November 6, 2018.
Patient education: home care—Teaching blood pressure measurement. EBSCO Nursing Reference Center website. Available at: https://www.ebscohost.com/nursing/products/nursing-reference-center. Updated June 29, 2018. Accessed November 6, 2018.
Last reviewed September 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardJames P. Cornell, MD Last Updated: 11/6/2018