Heart Hub

How to Use a Blood Pressure Monitor?

Blog Images How to Use a BPM

Why should I measure my blood pressure?

According to the Heart Foundation, 1 in 5 New Zealanders have high blood pressure, and many of those people often don’t know they have it. This is partly due to high blood pressure being mostly asymptomatic, leading to many people finding out about their hypertension at an unrelated medical appointment or after a serious health event. This is why it’s important to monitor your blood pressure, even if you are not currently diagnosed with high blood pressure, especially as it’s easy and inexpensive to check. 


 Using the blood pressure monitor

One of the most important instructions is to rest and relax for at least 5 minutes before taking your blood pressure. As the heart is a dynamic organ, it will beat harder to pump blood around the body in response to the body’s demands. Even a slow walk around the room increases the energy and oxygen consumption in the muscles of the legs, meaning they need more blood pumping to them compared to when they are at rest. This makes the heart pump harder and faster leading to a raised heart rate and blood pressure. Sitting still will have the opposite effect, putting less pressure on the heart, lowering the blood pressure and heart rate. If you have just been particularly active, smoked a cigarette or had a caffeinated drink, you may need closer to 30 minutes for your heart to ease off to a ‘resting’ level. 

Once you are ready, open the instructions that came with your monitor. 

Important steps to follow for an upper arm blood pressure monitor include:

  • Sitting still and quietly throughout the process. Even talking while the cuff inflates increases the body’s need for oxygen and tends to raise the blood pressure.
  • The cuff of the machine should be worn directly on the skin or potentially through only very thin clothing. Thick sleeves can affect the accuracy.
  • Your upper arm should be supported at the level of your heart (roughly in line with your breastbone).
  • Your back should also be supported.
  • Both feet should be on the ground (legs uncrossed).

Once you have a reading, write it down and repeat the process after another minute or two of sitting quietly. If the second reading is similar to the first, this is likely to be accurate. If it’s much lower, it’s likely that the first reading is the inaccurate one. In that case, write the result down and repeat your reading a third time after another minute or two of sitting quietly. Once you have two readings that are somewhat similar, take an average of them. You can then use My Blood Pressure to record it safely and get instant feedback, letting you know when you need to be concerned.


Irregular heart rhythm 

An important point to note here – if you have an irregular heart rhythm (an example of this is atrial fibrillation, or AF), this may cause inaccuracies when using home blood pressure monitors.

The most reliable way to get your blood pressure checked in these instances is with a manual machine that a practitioner inflates by squeezing the pump and listening to your pulse with a stethoscope on your arm. 

By having adults check their blood pressure regularly at home, we can then pick up on issues before they cause problems. For those who already have hypertension, being able to monitor readings at home can increase insight to how well (or unwell) their blood pressure is controlled, hopefully then leading to improved control through liaising with their GP and making appropriate medication and/or lifestyle changes.

Dr Katie P Laceholder 01

Dr. Katie Stephens


About me

Dr Katie has extensive experience working as both an NHS GP for many years as well as in private telehealth. Alongside getting her MBChB (University of Manchester, 2007) and MRCGP (2012), she also completed additional certifications, doing USMLE Steps 1-3 (United States Medical Licensing Examinations) and obtaining her cert ECFMG in 2015, and DRCOG in 2016. Katie’s special interests include Cardiology and medical training. 

GMC reference no: 6162998

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