The Best Time to Take Your Blood Pressure

Continue Taking an Active Role in Your Heart Health

A man checks his blood pressure at home.
Science Photo Library - IAN HOOTON/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

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. 

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.

Blood Pressure Checks at Your Doctor's Office

If you’re having your blood pressure checked regularly by a doctor, he or she 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. 

Blood Pressure Readings

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

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

  • Normal Blood Pressure: Readings of less than 120 systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic (less than 120/80 mmHg)
  • Elevated Blood Pressure: Readings consistently ranging from 120 to 129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic
  • Hypertension Stage 1: Readings consistently ranging from 130 to 130 systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic
  • Hypertension Stage 2: Readings consistently at 140 systolic and 90 mm Hg diastolic or higher (equal to or higher than 140/90)
  • 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 emergent medical attention. 

    Blood Pressure Checks at Home

    Home blood pressure monitoring is a common practice, and this is not only because it's inexpensive, relatively simple, and convenient.

    Research has shown that home blood pressure readings approximate the average 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, he may want to check the effectiveness of a current medication or a new low-salt diet change

    He 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.

    Factors to Consider When Checking Your Blood Pressure at Home

    Taking your blood pressure at home is different than taking it at your doctor's office because you’ll be comparing one relatively steady measurement to another over time.

    There are different factors you should keep in mind when deciding the time of day to check your blood pressure. These factors include:

    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.

    Consistency Matters

    Measuring your blood pressure at the same time on different days should give you about the same reading, excluding outside influences like exercise. An example blood pressure check routine may be to take two to three readings (in the seated position, while resting) both in the morning and night, over a period of one week.

    By taking consistent readings, 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.

    An Inconsistent Routine Can Throw Your Readings Off

    Besides exercise, eating large meals and taking your blood pressure standing rather than sitting can lead to a higher reading. To obtain the most accurate results, in addition to taking your blood pressure at the same time of day, try to have some consistency in your daily routine.

    Pick a Convenient Time

    When choosing a time to check your blood pressure, make sure it’s a time that works well with your schedule. Due to the fact that the actual time of day isn’t as important as making sure you take the readings at that time, choose a time slot that is unlikely to be disrupted by work or other conflicts. For instance, if you work outside of your home, you may want to take your blood pressure before work or when you return.

    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. 

    Sources:

    American Heart Association. (November 2017). Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. 

    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.

    Pickering TG et al. Call to action on use and reimbursement for home blood pressure monitoring: a joint scientific statement from the American Heart Association, American Society Of Hypertension, and Preventive Cardiovascular Nurses Association. Hypertension. 2008 Jul;52(1):10-29.