How To Measure Your Blood Pressure At Home

While it is now possible to take blood pressure readings using automated blood pressure monitors, if done correctly, manual readings using a stethoscope and a manual blood pressure cuff will be more accurate than that produced by any machine. It’s not difficult to master the procedure and with a little bit of practice you will be able to quickly, easily and accurately measure either your own or a family member’s blood pressure.

Things You'll Need

  • BP Cuff (AKA "Sphygmomanometer")
  • Stethoscope

Important Note: Before you begin, make sure that you have the correct size BP cuff for your arm or for the arm of the person whose blood pressure you will be measuring. You can measure arm size easily using any flexible tape measure. Having the wrong size cuff, either too large or too small, can result in significantly inaccurate readings - a common problem that can lead to misdiagnosis of elevated blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, here are the arm sizes for standard blood pressure cuffs:


Cuff Size Upper Arm Circumference
Standard Adult 12” to 13.4” (27cm to 34cm)
Large Adult (XL) 13.4” to 17.3” (34cm to 44cm)
Extra Extra Large / Thigh (XXL) 17.3” to 20.5” (44cm to 52cm)

Unfortunately, while the American Heart Association makes recommendations as to blood pressure cuff size and nomenclature, there is no consistency between manufacturers. Some manufacturers call a "Large Adult" cuff an "XL" or "Extra Large" cuff and some call an "Extra Extra Large" cuff a "XXL" or "Thigh Cuff". Also, there is some overlap between the cuff sizes and in the case of borderline measurements the larger cuff is usually recommended. It can be confusing. Forget the manufacturer's descriptions - ALWAYS measure the arm and then check the actual size of the cuff you are buying to make sure it will properly fit that arm. All™ BP Cuffs include the recommended arm size range in both inches and millimeters so you can choose the best cuff for you or the person whose blood pressure you will be measuring.

Before Beginning

If possible, you or the person whose blood pressure you are going to measures should go to the bathroom and make sure bladder and bowel are empty and unstrained. You or the person whose blood pressure is being measured should sit up straight at a desk or table in a quiet room with both feet flat on floor. Normally you will want to measure the blood pressure on the left arm so adjust your seating so the left arm rests comfortably on the desk or table - use a small cushion if you want to. If possible, you or the person being measured should take a few cleansing breaths and sit quietly for several minutes.

Now Measure Your Blood Pressure

Air Bleed Valve1.    Make sure the blood pressure cuff is completely deflated. Wrap the cuff snugly around your or the patient’s arm just above the elbow. It is easier and more accurate if done on bare skin, but it can be done over clothing if necessary. There is normally an arrow printed on the cuff which should be placed over the brachial artery in the inside center of the elbow.




Air Bleed Valve2.     Place the stethoscope over the brachial artery on the inside of the elbow just below the cuff.

3.    Make sure the air bleed valve on the gauge unit is closed. Keep the stethoscope in place while you inflate the cuff by using the rubber bulb at the end. Pump the inflation bulb until you see the number on the blood pressure gauge dial reach about 150-160. Your should hear nothing in the stethoscope because the inflated blood pressure cuff is essentially behaving as a tourniquet and cutting off the flow of blood through the arm. When measuring your own blood pressure you can use the hand on the arm with the cuff to pump the cuff and control the air bleed valve.



Air Bleed Valve4.    Open the air bleed valve slightly to begin slowly releasing the air from the blood pressure cuff. Listen very carefully for the sound of the beating heart in the stethoscope. It will be a sharp, “Thump, Thump, Thump” sound as the heart works hard to push the blood past the cuff. Record the reading on the gauge dial at which you first hear the heart beat. This high reading is the “systolic” blood pressure.




Air Bleed Valve5. Continue to let the air bleed out of the inflated blood pressure cuff. Listen very carefully as the “Thump, Thump, Thump” heart sound begins to fades out to a murmer and becomes increasingly difficult to hear. At the first instant where you can no longer hear the heart beat record the reading on the gauge dial. This low reading is the “diastolic” blood pressure.



6. That’s it. You’ve measured the blood pressure. The blood pressure reading is expressed as the fraction of systolic blood pressure over diastolic blood pressure. So, if you heard the first beat at 135 and it faded out at 85, then 135/85 would be the blood pressure reading.

7. Release the remaining air from the cuff and remove the cuff from your arm or the arm of the patient.


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