The Best Time to Take Your Blood Pressure

How to Get the Most Accurate Results

If you have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, you may wonder what the best time of day is to have it checked or to check it yourself. 

The answer depends on a few factors. Among them are whether you're doing it at home or in the healthcare provider's office, your schedule, and what's most convenient for you.

This article looks at why your blood pressure may change at different times of the day. It also offers some tips for getting the most accurate readings when you check your blood pressure at home.

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

At Your Healthcare Provider's Office

Some people have their blood pressure checked by a healthcare provider on a regular basis. There's a good chance that these appointments are scheduled at different times of the day.

There's also a good reason for that. A healthcare provider will do this on purpose to get a range of readings. These multiple readings are then averaged together into one overall result. It is used to give a diagnosis, according to standard guidelines on blood pressure.

Understanding Readings

Blood pressure measurements are given as two numbers. They are the systolic (top) number and diastolic (bottom) number. This 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 that consistently range from 120 to 129 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic
  • High blood pressure stage 1: Readings that consistently range from 130 to 139 mm Hg systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic
  • High blood pressure stage 2: Readings consistently at 140 mm Hg systolic or 90 mm Hg diastolic or higher.
  • Hypertensive crisis: A reading that is higher than 180/120 mm Hg. This is a serious condition and requires immediate medical attention. Call 9-1-1 if you have symptoms of chest pain, problems breathing, back pain, numbness, weakness, vision changes, or difficulty speaking.

At Home

Home blood pressure monitoring is a common practice. It is inexpensive, relatively simple, and convenient. Sometimes, it may also be more accurate than testing by a healthcare provider.

Advantages of Home Testing

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

Home blood pressure readings may eliminate the white-coat effect. The phrase describes how a person's blood pressure may rise when they visit their healthcare provider's office. It is very common.

Your healthcare provider may recommend home blood pressure checks for other reasons besides a careful monitoring for high blood pressure. For instance, they may want to see whether a drug used to control blood pressure is working. Or they may want to look for any changes if you adopt a new low-salt diet. 

They may use home blood pressure checks to monitor for low blood pressure in certain people. It also may be useful to monitor for masked hypertension. This happens when your blood pressure is normal at your healthcare provider's office but it is higher at home.

In the end, though, your healthcare provider will use your home blood pressure readings alongside the office blood pressure readings. They are not meant as a substitute, so be sure to continue seeing your provider for regular checkups.

Recap

Home blood pressure monitoring will help your healthcare provider to know when there are any changes. It can offer helpful clues as to what happens when you're not in the office. It also is a way to see if your medication is working, or if a different blood pressure drug is needed.

How to Self-Monitor

Home blood pressure monitoring is different than taking it at your healthcare provider's office because you’ll be comparing one relatively steady measurement to another over time. Follow these tips so that you get more accurate results when 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. It tends to vary by up to 30% across the day. This is because of hormone changes, activity level, and eating.
  • Measure at the same times every day. The same timing should give you about the same reading, except for other 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 more than one reading each time you check. Try to get two or three readings, one minute apart, each time you check your blood pressure. 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 for 30 minutes before you take a reading. All of these can lead to elevated readings. You should also empty your bladder and give yourself at least five minutes of quiet rest time before taking your blood pressure. 
  • Pick a convenient time. Make sure that your blood pressure checks work within 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. If you take your blood pressure while standing up, it can lead to a higher or inaccurate reading. Sit comfortably in a chair with your back supported. Rest your arms on a table or other flat surface, and place your feet flat on the floor.

When you take blood pressure readings each day, it's easier to see if the treatment your healthcare provider prescribed is working.

Summary

The best time to check your blood pressure depends on whether you're doing it at home, or it's taken by healthcare provider at the office. The answer also isn't likely to be just one time per day.

Your healthcare provider may take your blood pressure at different times and then average the results. At home, you should take your blood pressure at the same times each day. Do it at least twice a day with two or three readings each time. Be sure to keep track of these readings and monitor for changes.

A Word From Verywell

Home testing offers many advantages but it's important to be sure you're doing it correctly. The tips presented here are meant to help you get the most accurate results possible.

Remember, though, that monitoring your blood pressure at home is not meant to replace visits to your healthcare provider. Both kinds of readings matter, as your provider uses them to manage your high blood pressure.

Whether you are visiting your healthcare provider's office for routine blood pressure checks or taking your own blood pressure at home under their guidance, you are already taking an active role in your health and wellness.

Continue this good work. Your blood pressure readings may even lead you to make more healthy lifestyle choices through daily exercise and a well-balanced diet. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • At what time of day is your blood pressure highest?

    Blood pressure follows a circadian rhythm with a peak in the morning. It should have a decline during nighttime rest. If your pressure doesn’t drop at night, it could be a sign of a problem.

  • What equipment do I need to take my blood pressure at home?

    You can use a manual monitor or a digital monitor to check your blood pressure at home. With a manual monitor, you will also need a stethoscope, but it should be built in. Both types of monitors include a cuff that fits on your arm. They differ in how they measure and display your reading. 

  • Where can I get my blood pressure checked?

    You can get blood pressure measured at a doctor’s office, a pharmacy that has a digital blood pressure measurement machine, or at home using a blood pressure monitor you can use yourself.

8 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. American Heart Association. Understanding blood pressure readings.

  3. George J, Macdonald T. Home blood pressure monitoring. Eur Cardiol. 2015;10(2):95-101. doi:10.15420/ecr.2015.10.2.95

  4. Breaux-Shropshire TL, Judd E, Vucovich LA, Shropshire TS, Singh S. Does home blood pressure monitoring improve patient outcomes? A systematic review comparing home and ambulatory blood pressure monitoring on blood pressure control and patient outcomes. Integr Blood Press Control. 2015;8:43-9. doi:10.2147/IBPC.S49205

  5. American Heart Association. Monitoring your blood pressure at home.

  6. Cortés-Ríos J, Rodriguez-Fernandez M. Circadian rhythm of blood pressure of dipper and non-dipper patients with essential hypertension: a mathematical modeling approach. Front Physiol. 2021;11:536146. doi:10.3389/fphys.2020.536146

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  8. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Measure Your Blood Pressure.

By Craig O. Weber, MD
Craig O. Weber, MD, is a board-certified occupational specialist who has practiced for over 36 years.