Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

Heart Failure BP Checks

If you have heart failure, it is a good idea to learn how to take your blood pressure at home.

There are a number of devices commercially available for home blood pressure assessment. Many have digital readouts and don't require the use of a stethoscope. The digital blood pressure devices offer ease of use and the ability to take your own blood pressure quickly and accurately without assistance. After calculating the pulse, the digital blood pressure device will display the systolic and diastolic pressures. The stethoscope technique is still considered by many professionals to be the most accurate.

Tips for Obtaining an Accurate Blood Pressure

  • Remain seated or lying flat with the arm supported at heart level.
  • No smoking or caffeine for 30 minutes prior to measurement.
  • Rest for 5 minutes before taking your blood pressure.
  • The blood pressure air bladder should nearly encircle the arm: persons with large arms may require an extra large adult cuff. Cuffs are usually marked to indicate the acceptable size range.
  • Apply cuff 1/2 inch above elbow crease.
  • Locate brachial pulse and place the stethoscope bell at this location.
  • With the valve closed, pump up cuff bulb to approximately 210 mm Hg, or a point where no sounds are heard through the stethoscope.
  • Open the valve slowly (2-3 mm Hg per second) and listen for the point where the tapping sounds are first heard. The corresponding reading on the dial is the systolic pressure.
  • Then, listen for the point where the tapping sounds stop. The corresponding reading on the dial is the diastolic pressure.
  • Perform two more readings per session, separated by 5 minutes.
  • The blood pressure must be elevated during at least 3 separate sessions to diagnose hypertension.

Systolic Pressure Guideline for Adults
Systolic Blood PressureAssessment
120-139Prehypertension
Over 140-159Hypertension Stage 1
160 or higherHypertension Stage 2

Diastolic Pressure Guideline for Adults
Diastolic Blood PressureAssessment
Below 80Normal
80-89Prehypertension
90-99Hypertension Stage 1
100 or higherHypertension Stage 2

Continue to Heart Failure Pulse Checks

Last Updated: Dec 8, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Heart Failure References
  1. Bibbins-Domingo K, Lin F, Vittinghoff E, Barrett-Connor E, Hulley SB, Grady D, Shlipak MG. Predictors of heart failure among women with coronary disease. Circulation. 2004 Sep 14;110(11):1424-30. [1535349]
  2. Chen QM, Tu VC. Apoptosis and heart failure: mechanisms and therapeutic implications. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs. 2002;2(1):43-57. [14727998]
  3. Ebinger MW, Krishnan S, Schuger CD. Mechanisms of ventricular arrhythmias in heart failure. Curr Heart Fail Rep. 2005 Sep;2(3):111-7. [16138946]
  4. Mitchell J, Taylor A. Congestive heart failure in women. J Fam Pract. 2005 Jul;Suppl:6-7. [16134558]
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