A number of home tests are available for checking blood pressure between doctor visits:
- Manual cuffs and stethoscopes are fairly accurate, but they require practice to use, and the cuff must be the right size. (One size does not fit all.)
- Devices that use a digital readout with a cuff that can be electronically inflated and deflated are proving to be as accurate as those that require a stethoscope.
- Devices that take the pressure from the finger are NOT reliable and tend to be very inaccurate.
A doctor may fit a patient with a portable unit that records blood pressure during a full day's activity. This test, known as ambulatory monitoring, is particularly useful for those who experience wide blood pressure swings and those in whom the diagnosis of high blood pressure is uncertain (for example, white coat hypertension).
Blood pressure variations
In general, everyone's blood pressure varies throughout a given day:
- Blood pressure is usually highest at work.
- It drops slightly at home.
- It normally dips to its lowest level during sleep.
- Upon waking, pressure in most people typically increases suddenly. In people with severe high blood pressure, this is the highest risk period for heart attack and stroke.
Reviewed By: Steven Kang, MD, Division of Cardiac Pacing and Electrophysiology, East Bay Arrhythmia, Cardiovascular Consultants Medical Group, Oakland, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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