What is blood pressure monitoring?

Blood pressure monitoring means taking your blood pressure on a regular or continuous basis. Blood pressure monitoring helps assess your overall health and your condition when you are sick or injured. Blood pressure monitoring can occur at a doctor’s appointment, at home on a regular basis, and in the hospital continuously if you are seriously ill or injured.    

Blood pressure is the force exerted on the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. Your blood pressure consists of two numbers followed by the units of pressure, such as 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury): 

  • The top number is the systolic pressure—the highest pressure in your arteries as the heart is pumping blood. 
  • The bottom number is the diastolic pressure—the lowest pressure in your arteries when the heart is at rest between beats. 

A general guideline for normal blood pressure in adults is less than 120/80 mmHg. Regular blood pressure monitoring is important because a single blood pressure reading does not provide enough information to evaluate your health status. 

Noninvasive blood pressure monitoring is a safe, routine procedure. It is only one method of monitoring your general health and condition. Ask your doctor about all the methods of monitoring and evaluating your health status.  

Types of blood pressure monitoring

The types of blood pressure monitoring include:

  • Noninvasive blood pressure monitoring, which most often involves applying a blood pressure cuff to the upper arm. Some devices take readings in a finger, wrist or thigh. This type of monitoring usually occurs at specific points in time, such as weekly, daily, or every 15 minutes, depending on your health and condition. Specialized noninvasive devices can provide continuous 24-hour blood pressure monitoring, which offers a broader picture of your health.
  • Invasive intra-arterial pressure (IAP) monitoring, which measures blood pressure continuously through a catheter in an artery. The catheter is usually placed in the wrist. IAP is useful in certain major surgeries, such as open-heart surgery, and in critically ill or injured patients.

Why is blood pressure monitoring performed? 

Blood pressure monitoring is an important element in evaluating general health and most diseases and conditions. It also helps to diagnose and evaluate treatment for high blood pressure (hypertension) and related conditions, such as preeclampsia or pregnancy-induced hypertension. Your doctor may recommend home blood pressure monitoring for such conditions as hypertension, coronary heart disease, diabetes, and kidney disease. 

A general guideline for normal blood pressure in adults is less than 120/80 mmHg. However, blood pressure measurements change in response to many situations. Some changes are normal. Examples include a mild, temporary rise during strenuous activity or a fall in blood pressure during periods of relaxation or sleep. 

Other blood pressure changes can indicate an unhealthy condition. Examples include a consistent rise due to high blood pressure (hypertension) or a drop due to severe bleeding or shock.

Who performs blood pressure monitoring?

All qualified healthcare providers can check and monitor your blood pressure. You can also do it yourself using home blood pressure monitoring devices. Following is a partial list of healthcare providers who perform blood pressure monitoring:  

  • Cardiologists specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases or conditions of the heart and blood vessels.
  • Nurses are licensed healthcare professionals who ensure that patients attain, maintain, or recover optimal health and functioning.
  • Primary care providers offer comprehensive healthcare services and treat a wide range of illnesses and conditions. They include internists, family practitioners (family medicine), pediatricians, geriatricians, physician assistants (PAs), and nurse practitioners (NPs). 

How is blood pressure monitoring performed?

Blood pressure monitoring is performed in most healthcare settings and in the home.&