People living with hypertension, other medical conditions, or certain risk factors for hypertension may need to check their blood pressure twice a day to help monitor their health and alert them to any potential issues.

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. This condition may increase a person’s risk of developing several other health conditions, such as heart disease and chronic kidney disease.

High blood pressure does not cause any symptoms. The only way a person can monitor or find out if they have elevated levels is to check their blood pressure. People can do this in a doctor’s office during routine visits or at home with a blood pressure machine.

This article reviews who may need to regularly check their blood pressure, when to check blood pressure, how to check it at home, and what the readings can indicate.

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High blood pressure does not cause any symptoms or warning signs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that a large portion of people living with the condition may have no idea they have it.

People may want to discuss their potential risk of developing high blood pressure with a doctor. Depending on their overall risk, a healthcare professional may recommend regular blood pressure checks. Some risk factors for high blood pressure include:

A person living with high blood pressure may need to check their blood pressure more regularly than those who do not. They should ask a doctor how often they should monitor their blood pressure at home or in clinical settings, such as a doctor’s office.

According to the American Heart Association, a person may consider checking their blood pressure at home if they:

  • have received a high blood pressure diagnosis
  • have started treatment for high blood pressure, in order to determine the treatment’s efficacy
  • suspect they may only have high blood pressure readings depending on whether they are in a doctor’s office or at home (potentially false readings due to stress or anxiety)
  • are at high risk of developing high blood pressure or living with related conditions
  • are pregnant

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) recommends that everyone over the age of 40 should check their blood pressure at least once every 5 years.

When monitoring blood pressure at home, the NHS recommends that a person should check it twice a day while sitting down, preferably in the morning and evening.

During each check, a person should measure their blood pressure two times with a minute break between each reading.

Additionally, the CDC recommends checking blood pressure at the same times each day.

To check blood pressure at home, a person will need a blood pressure machine, which they may be able to buy at a local pharmacy or online.

Before checking their blood pressure, a person should find a comfortable place to sit where they can elevate their arm to chest or heart level. Once sitting, they will need to place the cuff around the upper part of the elevated arm under any clothing, or against bare skin.

Devices can vary, but most will have an obvious start button that the person can press once the cuff is in the correct position. The cuff will tighten for a few seconds and then the machine should display the blood pressure reading.

A person should record the reading in an app or notebook. They can then share their readings in their next appointment with a healthcare professional.

The NHS recommends doing two readings at each check, twice daily. A person should wait 1 minute between each reading.

The CDC provides the following recommendations for taking blood pressure measurements at home:

  • Sit with the feet on the ground and the arm elevated.
  • Empty the bladder before the check.
  • Wait at least 30 minutes after eating or drinking to do the check.
  • Make sure the cuff is snug but not too tight.
  • Do not talk during the reading.
  • Make the checks at the same times every day.

A person can choose whichever arm they prefer for the reading. The American Heart Association notes that there is minimal difference between using different arms.

Learn more about how to check blood pressure.

Blood pressure monitors display two numbers, which indicate systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.

Systolic pressure represents the pressure of the blood pushing against the artery walls when the heart muscle contracts. Diastolic pressure measures the pressure the blood exerts on the artery walls when the heart muscle rests.

The unit of measurement for blood pressure is millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Healthcare professionals consider a person to have normal blood pressure when their upper reading is less than 120 mmHg (systolic) and their lower reading is less than 80 mmHg (diastolic).

Higher readings can indicate elevated or high blood pressure, as demonstrated in the table below:

ReadingBlood pressure category
120–129 mmHg systolic AND less than 80 mmHg diastolicelevated
130–139 mmHg systolic OR 80-89 mmHg diastolichigh blood pressure (stage 1)
140 mmHg or higher systolic OR 90 mmHg or higher diastolichigh blood pressure (stage 2)
higher than 180 mmHg systolic AND/OR higher than 120 mmHg diastolichypertensive crisis

The AHA recommends waiting for 5 minutes and taking another reading if a person has a reading that indicates they may be experiencing a hypertensive crisis.

If the second reading is still as high, and the person is not experiencing any symptoms associated with hypertensive crisis, they should contact their doctor for a health and treatment review.

If someone has a reading that indicates a hypertensive crisis and is experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, chest pain, numbness or weakness, back pain, difficulty speaking, or changes in vision, they should call 911 immediately without taking a second reading.

A person should record their readings every day. The information may help a doctor determine if someone’s blood pressure medication is working and help monitor the condition in general. They may be able to make additional treatment recommendations based on the readings.

Older adults should check their blood pressure at least once every 5 years. People with certain risk factors for high blood pressure and individuals who are living with high blood pressure or other conditions may need to check it more regularly.

A doctor can help determine whether a person may need to measure their pressure at home. Typically, a person will need to measure their blood pressure twice each day and make two readings, 1 minute apart, at each session. A person should record their readings to share with their doctor.