High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is one of the biggest health problems for my patients -- and Americans in general. So I routinely recommend that patients keep track of their blood pressure by taking readings at home between doctor visits. If you don’t have your own BP machine, you can get one at the drugstore.
In my experience, drugstore blood-pressure machines are fairly accurate. But it’s important to understand that they are one-size-fits-all. They have to be able to accommodate a tiny woman as well as a large man. And using a BP cuff that’s too small for your arm can cause falsely high readings.
I prefer that patients managing hypertension use their own personal sphygmomanometers (BP machines) at home and write the measurements on a spreadsheet, including the date and time of the reading, so I can get a sense of how their pressure changes throughout the day. Personal BP machines are relatively inexpensive. One advantage of using your own is that you can bring it to your doc’s office to be calibrated, so you’re certain to be accurate.
If you do buy a drugstore machine, make sure to use it properly:
Dr. Michael Martin is an internist at the Center for Executive Medicine in Plano, Texas, who specializes in concierge medicine.
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