New Video from Harvard Medical School: Dos and Don'ts of Checking Blood Pressure at Home, from the Harvard Heart Letter

Blood pressure readings jump around so much that you are more likely to get an accurate reading if you check it at home rather than in the doctor's office, reports the September 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

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Boston (Vocus) September 9, 2008

Your blood pressure changes from hour to hour, sometimes minute to minute. Standing up from a chair, watching an exciting show, eating a meal, or being stressed -- perhaps because of a visit to the doctor -- all influence your blood pressure. Blood pressure readings jump around so much that you are more likely to get an accurate reading if you check it at home rather than in the doctor's office, reports the September 2008 issue of the Harvard Heart Letter.

The idea underlies a new recommendation from the American Heart Association urging individuals with high blood pressure or at high risk for developing it to become do-it-yourselfers, for a number of reasons:

Find your real blood pressure: In some individuals, the doctor's office snapshot tells the whole story and is an excellent approximation of their usual pressure. In others, it isn't.

Track your progress: Checking your blood pressure at home lets you know whether your lifestyle changes and medications are having their desired effects.

Save time and medications: Home measurement may mean fewer trips to the doctor's office. If you have "white-coat" hypertension -- a rise in blood pressure when you go to the doctor -- it may also mean taking fewer medications.

Watch the video

If you choose to measure your blood pressure at home, technique matters. A free instructional video from Harvard Health Publications, online at http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Heart-webextra-0908.htm , shows Harvard Heart Letter editor Patrick J. Skerrett demonstrating the right way to take a blood pressure reading at home. This web page also offers tips for choosing a home blood pressure monitor.

Also in this issue:

  • Aches and pains from statins
  • Removing faulty pacemaker wires
  • Mediterranean diet wards off heart disease
  • Heart disease a leading killer among people with HIV/AIDS
  • Is there a connection between statins, muscle pain, and coenzyme Q10?
The Harvard Heart Letter is available from Harvard Health Publications, the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, for $24 per year. Subscribe at http://www.health.harvard.edu/heart or by calling 877-649-9457 (toll-free).

Media: Contact Raquel Schott at Raquel_Schott@hms.harvard.edu for a complimentary copy of the newsletter, or to receive our press releases directly.

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