How to Take Your Blood Pressure (Easy to Read)

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How to Take Your Blood Pressure, Easy-to-Read

How to Take Your Blood Pressure

Blood pressure measures how strongly your blood is pressing against the walls of your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from your heart throughout your body. You can take your blood pressure at home with a machine.

You may need to check your blood pressure at home:
  • To check if you have high blood pressure (hypertension).
  • To check your blood pressure over time.
  • To make sure your blood pressure medicine is working.

Supplies needed:

  • Blood pressure machine, or monitor.
  • A chair to sit in. This should be a chair where you can sit upright with your back supported. Do not sit on a soft couch or an armchair.
  • Table or desk.
  • Small notebook.
  • Pencil or pen.

How to prepare

Avoid these things for 30 minutes before checking your blood pressure:
  • Having drinks with caffeine in them, such as coffee or tea.
  • Drinking alcohol.
  • Eating.
  • Smoking.
  • Exercising.

Do these things five minutes before checking your blood pressure:
  • Go to the bathroom and pee (urinate).
  • Sit in a chair.
  • Be quiet. Do not talk.

How to take your blood pressure

A person checking his blood pressure with a monitor and cuff.

Follow the instructions that came with your machine. If you have a digital blood pressure monitor, these may be the instructions:
  1. Sit up straight.
  2. Place your feet on the floor. Do not cross your ankles or legs.
  3. Rest your left arm at the level of your heart. You may rest it on a table, desk, or chair.
  4. Pull up your shirt sleeve.
  5. Wrap the blood pressure cuff around the upper part of your left arm. The cuff should be 1 inch (2.5 cm) above your elbow. It is best to wrap the cuff around bare skin.
  6. Fit the cuff snugly around your arm, but not too tightly. You should be able to place only one finger between the cuff and your arm.
  7. Place the cord so that it rests in the bend of your elbow.
  8. Press the power button.
  9. Sit quietly while the cuff fills with air and loses air.
  10. Write down the numbers on the screen.
  11. Wait 2–3 minutes and then repeat steps 1–10.

What do the numbers mean?

Two numbers make up your blood pressure. The first number is called systolic pressure. The second is called diastolic pressure. An example of a blood pressure reading is "120 over 80" (or 120/80).

If you are an adult and do not have a medical condition, use this guide to find out if your blood pressure is normal:


  • First number: below 120.
  • Second number: below 80.


  • First number: 120–129.
  • Second number: below 80.

Hypertension stage 1

  • First number: 130–139.
  • Second number: 80–89.

Hypertension stage 2

  • First number: 140 or above.
  • Second number: 90 or above.

Your blood pressure is above normal even if only the first or only the second number is above normal.

Follow these instructions at home:


  • Take over-the-counter and prescription medicines only as told by your doctor.
  • Tell your doctor if your medicine is causing side effects.

General instructions

  • Check your blood pressure as often as your doctor tells you to.
  • Check your blood pressure at the same time every day.
  • Take your monitor to your next doctor's appointment. Your doctor will:
    • Make sure you are using it correctly.
    • Make sure it is working right.
  • Understand what your blood pressure numbers should be.
  • Keep all follow-up visits.

General tips

You will need a blood pressure machine or monitor. Your doctor can suggest a monitor. You can buy one at a drugstore or online. When choosing one:
  • Choose one with an arm cuff.
  • Choose one that wraps around your upper arm. Only one finger should fit between your arm and the cuff.
  • Do not choose one that measures your blood pressure from your wrist or finger.

Where to find more information

American Heart Association:

Contact a doctor if:

  • Your blood pressure keeps being high.
  • Your blood pressure is suddenly low.

Get help right away if:

  • Your first blood pressure number is higher than 180.
  • Your second blood pressure number is higher than 120.

These symptoms may be an emergency. Do not wait to see if the symptoms will go away. Get help right away. Call 911.


  • Check your blood pressure at the same time every day.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, smoking, and exercise for 30 minutes before checking your blood pressure.
  • Make sure you understand what your blood pressure numbers should be.

This information is not intended to replace advice given to you by your health care provider. Make sure you discuss any questions you have with your health care provider.