The Best Time to Take Your Blood Pressure

Continue Taking an Active Role in Your Heart Health

In This Article

If you have high blood pressure, you may be wondering what the ideal time of day is to get it checked or to check it yourself. 

A man checks his blood pressure at home
IAN HOOTON / Brand X Pictures / Getty Images

The answer actually depends on a few factors like whether you're doing it at home or in the doctor's office, your schedule, and what's most convenient for you.

At Your Doctor's Office

If you’re having your blood pressure checked regularly by a doctor, they will likely try to schedule the appointments at different times of the day.

Your doctor will do this purposely to obtain a range of readings. These multiple readings are then averaged together into one composite result, which is used to give a diagnosis, according to standard blood pressure guidelines. 

Understanding Readings

Blood pressure is taken as two numbers, systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number), and is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). So a blood pressure of 120/80 mm Hg is read as "120 over 80."

Blood Pressure Ranges

According to the American Heart Association, there are five blood pressure categories:

  • Normal: Readings of less than 120 mm Hg systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic (less than 120/80 mm Hg)
  • Elevated: Readings consistently ranging from 120 to 129 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic
  • Hypertension Stage 1: Readings consistently ranging from 130 to 139 mm Hg systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic
  • Hypertension Stage 2: Readings consistently at 140 mm Hg systolic or 90 mm Hg diastolic or higher (equal to or higher than 140/90 mm Hg)
  • Hypertensive Crisis: A reading that is higher than 180/120 mm Hg. This is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. If you are experiencing symptoms of chest pain, problems breathing, back pain, numbness, weakness, vision changes, or difficulty speaking, call 9-1-1 for emergency medical care. 

At Home

Home blood pressure monitoring is a common practice that is inexpensive, relatively simple, and convenient. It also can sometimes be more accurate than testing at a doctor's office.

Advantages of Home Testing

Research has shown that home blood pressure readings are similar to blood pressure recorded by 24-hour ambulatory monitors (the gold standard for predicting a person's risk for heart disease). 

In addition, home blood pressure readings eliminate the white-coat effect (when a person's blood pressure increases as a result of visiting their doctor). 

Besides routine monitoring for known or suspected high blood pressure, there are other reasons why your doctor may recommend home blood pressure checks. For instance, they may want to check the effectiveness of a current medication or a new low-salt diet change. 

They may even use home blood pressure checks to monitor for low blood pressure in certain people or for a condition called masked hypertension (when your blood pressure is normal at your doctor's office but elevated at home). 

In the end, though, your doctor will use your home blood pressure readings as an adjuvant to office blood pressure readings, not as a substitute. So be sure to continue seeing your doctor for regular check-ups.

How to Self Monitor

Home blood pressure monitoring is different than taking it at your doctor's office because you’ll be comparing one relatively steady measurement to another over time. When scheduling checks, there are some factors to keep in mind so that you get more accurate results. Follow these tips if you are testing at home:

  • Get readings at least twice a day. Blood pressure changes throughout the day. Your blood pressure is typically at its lowest right after waking up and tends to vary by up to 30 percent throughout the day. This is a result of hormone changes, activity level, and eating.
  • Measure at the same times every day. This consistency in timing should give you about the same reading, excluding outside influences like exercise. For example, your routine for checking your blood pressure may be to take two to three checks both in the morning and night.
  • Take multiple readings each time you check. Each time you check your blood pressure, get two or three readings one minute apart and record the results in a written log or online tracker. 
  • Prepare 30 minutes ahead of readings. Do not exercise, smoke, drink caffeine, or eat a big meal 30 minutes before taking a reading. All of these can lead to an elevated readings. You should also empty your bladder and give yourself at least 5 minutes of quiet rest time before measurements. 
  • Pick a convenient time. When choosing a time to check your blood pressure, make sure it works well with your schedule. Choose a time slot that is unlikely to be disrupted by work or other conflicts. If you work outside of your home, you may want to take your blood pressure before work or when you return.
  • Sit in a chair. Taking your blood pressure while standing can lead to higher readings. Sit comfortably in a chair with your back supported, your arms resting on a table or other flat surface, and your feet flat on the floor.

By taking consistent readings each day, it's easier to see if the treatment your doctor prescribed is working as directed. Successful blood pressure treatment plans should result in “same time” readings that tend to decrease.

A Word From Verywell

Whether you are visiting your doctor's office for routine blood pressure checks or taking your own blood pressure at home (under the guidance of your doctor), you are already taking an active role in your healthcare.

Continue this good work—your blood pressure readings may even inspire you to live more healthfully through daily exercise and a well-balanced diet. 

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Article Sources
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  5. American Heart Association. Monitoring your blood pressure at home. Updated November 30, 2017.