How to Check Blood Pressure with an Online Doctor

January 3, 2021

Telehealth's popularity is growing as a way to safely meet with your doctor from the comfort of your home. However, some aspects of a doctor's appointment may be tricky to navigate, such as checking your blood pressure. How do you check your blood pressure with an online medical provider?

Taking your own blood pressure can be easy if you know how to do it correctly. Learning how to take accurate readings of your own blood pressure is important when considering visiting an online provider. Luckily for you, we have put together an 8-step guide on how to check your blood pressure for your telehealth appointment. 

Decide How to Track Your Blood Pressure 

You may decide to start using a telehealth doctor to monitor your blood pressure. Typically, your doctor takes your blood pressure for you. However, this is not the case with your online doctor; you have to take it yourself.

There are two different ways to monitor your own blood pressure accurately.

  • Local pharmacy blood pressure machine
  • A home blood pressure monitor

Tracking Your Blood Pressure at a Pharmacy Machine

Most local pharmacies have a blood pressure machine readily available for customers. This free machine is a plausible choice for patients who may not have the money to buy their own monitor. 

However, there are a few disadvantages to using a pharmacy blood pressure machine, such as:

  • The machines become less accurate as they age
  • One cuff size does not fit all
  • Not a calm environment that allows you to sit for the proper 5 minutes before taking your reading
  • It may be difficult to access at the same time every day

It is important to have the correct cuff size when taking your blood pressure because the wrong size will alter the readings. If your arm is not the proper size for the pharmacy's machine, your medical provider will not be able to trust the readings.

When taking your blood pressure, you need to sit calmly beforehand as well as take it around the same time every day. This may not be possible if using a communal machine. 

Acquiring A Home Blood Pressure Monitor

To ensure a more accurate reading from the comfort of your home, you may consider buying your own blood pressure monitor. 

Here are a few important things to consider when purchasing your own home monitor:

  • Ensure you have the appropriate cuff size
  • Make sure the device is validated
  • Make sure it is an upper-arm monitor

If you are unsure whether or not your device is validated, simply ask your doctor, and they will be able to tell you. Bring your device to your next appointment and compare the reading to their reading. Also, make sure you are using a bicep (upper arm) monitor and not a wrist or finger one because they are less accurate. 

Choosing Your Best Home Blood Pressure Monitor

You have your choice of a multitude of available home blood pressure monitors. Picking the correct one for your needs is important.

You will need to ensure the monitor you purchase is validated for the following specific conditions if you are a:

  • Pregnant woman
  • A child
  • A senior
  • Obese

There are different types of home monitors available to meet your specific needs. A few different aspects to consider having in your monitor include:

  • Ability to detect an irregular heartbeat
  • Ability to store multiple people's readings
  • Automatic inflation
  • Bluetooth capabilities
  • Portable or non-portable

A great machine if you are on a budget is the A&D UA-767F. This machine can store readings for up to four different people but is not able to transfer the data to a computer. At around $45, this monitor is consistent and trustworthy. 

If you are looking for a monitor that can transfer your readings to your phone or computer for easier tracking, consider one with Bluetooth capabilities. A great one to consider is the Omron Evolve

If you are looking to carry your machine around with you while you travel, consider one that runs on batteries and comes with an easy to carry storage case. A good one to consider is the Beurer BM55.

Nowadays, most monitors are portable. However, you can still opt to buy less portable monitors if you choose that are bigger and may require wires instead of batteries. 

For Whom Is Home Blood Pressure Monitoring Useful?

Before investing in a home blood pressure monitor, make sure you are someone who will benefit from using it. Not everyone needs to track their blood pressure for a telehealth visit. People with certain conditions may not be able to get accurate readings from home monitors as well.

If you are someone who falls in one of the following categories, you will likely benefit from a home blood pressure monitor:

  • At high risk for developing high blood pressure
  • Diagnosed with hypertension or HBP
  • Experiencing potentially false readings
  • Just starting high blood pressure treatment
  • Pregnancy-induced hypertension or pre-eclampsia

Check with your local doctor to see if you are a good candidate for blood pressure monitoring via an online doctor. Some people who may not be good candidates are people with:

  • Arrhythmias
  • Atrial fibrillation

Individuals with these conditions often are not able to get accurate readings from electronic home blood pressure monitors. Therefore, it does not make sense for them to take their blood pressure at home.

Staying Still While Taking Your Readings

Once you have figured out how you will be taking your blood pressure, it is important to learn how to do it correctly. If you do not follow the correct steps when taking your blood pressure, your doctor will not be able to come to an accurate conclusion about your readings.

The first most important part of taking your blood pressure is remaining still throughout the entirety of the process. If you move while taking your reading, it can alter the results. This includes talking as well. 

Talking during a reading can increase your BP reading by 10 points. So, be sure to be still and quiet during the process. 

Remain Calm Before Your Readings 

Not only is it important to be still during the reading, but also before. You should sit quietly for at least 5 minutes before taking your reading. This allows you to calm down and for your blood pressure levels to go to their base levels. 

For the 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure, you should refrain from:

  • Drinking caffeinated beverages
  • Smoking
  • Having a full bladder

It is no surprise that caffeine and smoking raise your blood pressure. However, did you know having a full bladder can as well?

You should always use the bathroom before taking your blood pressure because a full bladder can add up to 15 points to your reading. 

Make Sure You Sit Correctly

How you sit while you take your blood pressure is also important. Your back should be straight, and your arm should be supported.

Your arm should be on a flat surface with your bicep at heart level. You can rest your arm on a table or arm of the chair if the surface is flat and not too high that it causes your upper arm to be above heart level. 

If your arm is unsupported, it can add up to 10 points to your reading. 

You should sit in a dining chair rather than on a sofa to ensure your back is straight. Your feet should be flat on the ground or a footstool if they do not reach the floor. Crossing your legs can increase your reading between 2 to 8 points, so make sure your legs are uncrossed and supported. 

Make Sure the Cuff Is on Your Bare Arm 

You should never take measurements with the cuff over your clothing. Placing the cuff over your clothes can add up to 50 points to your reading. This could result in alarming differences between readings as well as potential concern that is not necessary. 

Ensure the cuff is on your bare arm and the same arm for each reading. Your arms may have different blood pressure readings, so it is important to use the same one each time. You can record both arms if you so desire, but oftentimes this is not necessary. 

Ensure the Cuff Is Placed Correctly on Your Bicep

While sitting correctly, you want to make sure you have placed the cuff in the right position. The bottom of the cuff should be right above the bend of the elbow. 

Unless told to do otherwise by your doctor, you should place the cuff on your left arm. If your blood pressure is higher in one arm than the other, your doctor will likely have you take your readings from the arm with the higher blood pressure. 

If you are unsure about how to place the cuff or where to place it, you can consult the instruction manual that comes with your monitor or with your doctor. 

Some home blood pressure cuffs are meant to be placed on the wrist, so read the packaging directions. Improper placement will lead to false readings of your blood pressures. 

Should My Blood Pressure Be Higher in One Arm Than the Other?

It is normal to see a difference of about 10 mm Hg or less between your left and right arm. Anything higher than this is cause for concern. You should notify your doctor if you see consistent differences above 10 mmHg between your two arms over an extended time frame.

Take Your Readings at The Same Time Every Day

You should take your readings twice a day at the same time each day. Your blood pressure fluctuates through the day with different activities that you do. Taking at the same time will help ensure the fluctuations are due to actual rises or decreases in blood pressure and not just due to a different part of the day. 

Readings should be taken in the morning and at night. If you are starting a new medication, your doctor may request that you do your reading after taking it to see how it affects your blood pressure levels. 

It is recommended that you take two readings each morning and night. Wait one minute after your first reading, and then take another. 

How Long Do You Need to Take Your Blood Pressure Before Your Doctor's Appointment?

Before your telehealth appointment, you should monitor your blood pressure for at least one week. Some doctors even recommend that you do it for up to 2 weeks prior to the appointment. 

Most of the time, one week of readings will be sufficient unless otherwise noted by your doctor. 

Make Sure to Record Your Readings

After every reading, you take, make sure you write it down along with the time at which you took it. Most home blood pressure monitors record the readings for you. Some even allow you to transfer the readings to your phone or computer.

However, if you have a device that does not keep a record of your readings or one that doesn't allow you to transfer it to your electronic devices, you may want to write down the numbers yourself. 

If your monitor keeps track of the readings for you, make sure you have it with you during your virtual appointment. However, it will save you and your doctor time if you have the readings in a shareable format so that your doctor can quickly and easily look them over. This also allows your provider to look back on your records for future appointments. 

How to Keep A Blood Pressure Journal

Keeping a record of all your blood pressure readings is important to show how your numbers vary over time. There are different ways to go about this including:

  • Downloading a standardized blood pressure log
  • Using a blood pressure app
  • Use Excel
  • Upload readings to a secure website
  • Write down everything in a notebook

A standardized blood pressure log can be easily downloaded and used to record your readings as well as any symptoms you may have experienced. 

Bluetooth enabled monitors will allow you to transfer recordings to different blood pressure apps easily. You can also use these apps without Bluetooth enabled devices. You just have to input the numbers manually.

If you plan to use Excel or to write down your records in a notebook, make sure that there is space for the:

  • Date
  • Time
  • Blood pressure reading
  • Notes

Sending My Online Doctor My Blood Pressure Journal

If you choose to record your blood pressure electronically, you can send it to your online doctor. Simply attach the file to your email to them and make sure they have permission to access it.

If you are using a secure website to record your blood pressure, let your doctor know the website name and any information they will need to access the records. 

If you have handwritten your records, the only way to show your doctor is through the video appointment. Speak with your doctor first about their preferences. For some, simply going over your written results with you during the video conference will be enough. 

Make Sure You Understand What Your Numbers Mean

When recording your numbers, make sure you know what ones are cause for concern. Small fluctuations in your numbers are normal. These fluctuations can be caused by:

  • Anxiety
  • Certain beverages
  • Certain foods
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Medications
  • Night-shift work
  • Physical activity
  • Stress
  • Tobacco use

However, major fluctuations over an extended period may be cause for concern. Be sure to notify your doctor if this is the case. These fluctuations could be due to an underlying problem or incorrectly using the home monitor. 

What Can Cause Abnormal Blood Pressure Levels?

Experiencing abnormal blood pressure levels can be due to an array of underlying problems. The only way to know what is causing it is to consult your doctor. Some possible causes include:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Dehydration
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Nervous system problems
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Pregnancy
  • Thyroid problems

What Are Normal Blood Pressure Levels?

Determining what normal levels of blood pressure are can help you understand your readings. When measuring using your upper-arm, normal blood pressure levels are usually below 120 mm Hg. 

Here is a chart to help you determine what your blood pressure levels mean. Systolic is the upper number, and diastolic is the lower number

Blood Pressure Category

Systolic Blood Pressure Levels 
(mm Hg) 
Diastolic Blood Pressure Levels 
(mm Hg)
What You Should Do
Hypotension (Low Blood Pressure)Less than 90Less than 60

Consult your doctor to determine the best course of treatment
Normal90 to 12060 to 80No action needed
Elevated120 to 12980 to 100Consult your doctor to verify if it is a concern

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) Stage 1
130 to 13980 to 89Contact your doctor immediately or call 911

Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) Stage 2
140 to 180systolic at least 90Contact your doctor immediately or call 911

Hypertensive Crisis
Higher than 180Higher than 120Contact your doctor immediately or call 911

If you are using an at-home monitor, you more than likely are experiencing hypertension stage 1 or 2 already. If this is the case, keep recording your readings, but there is no need to notify your doctor before your visit if the readings stay within your category or drop a category. 

If your doctor is already aware of your blood pressure situation, the only time to notify them is if your levels become close to hypertensive crisis levels. 

You Should Immediately Notify Your Doctor If You Fall Into the Hypertensive Crisis Category 

If you take your blood pressure and it reads higher than 180 over 120, the first thing you should do is wait 5 minutes and then take it again. There is the possibility of a faulty reading, but if it is above 180 over 120 again, then you should immediately notify your doctor or consider calling 911. 

Blood pressure within this range can cause a multitude of adverse health effects, including:

  • Angina
  • Aortic dissection
  • Damage to your eyes
  • Eclampsia
  • Heart attack
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Loss of kidney function
  • Pulmonary edema
  • Stroke

Two Different Types of Hypertensive Crisis

During a hypertensive crisis, you need to determine whether you should call 911 instead of your doctor by figuring out the type of hypertensive crisis you are experiencing. 

There are two types of hypertensive crisis:

  • Hypertensive urgency
  • Hypertensive emergency

During a hypertensive urgency, you do not experience any adverse symptoms along with the high blood pressure reading. For this, you need to contact your doctor immediately, and they will have you adjust your medications as well as monitor the situation. 

During a hypertensive emergency, you will experience adverse symptoms along with the high blood pressure, such as:

  • Back pain
  • Change in vision
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Numbness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weakness

These are symptoms of organ failure and require you to dial 911 immediately. This often results in hospitalization. 

If you cannot get in contact with a medical provider right away, it is always best to go to urgent care or hospital emergency room. Don't assume your very high blood pressure isn't an emergency situation. 

Have Your Blood Pressure Journal Available for Medical Team in Case of Emergency

If you need to call 911, it can be helpful for the medical team to see your blood pressure journal. Your journal may help them figure out the best course of treatment for you. 

Make sure the team taking care of you is aware of what medications you are on for blood pressure, as well as if those medications have caused any adverse symptoms in the past. 

It may not be possible to have your journal on hand, and that is okay. This is why mobile apps work well, though, because most people carry their phones with them wherever they go. You can easily pull up your journal on your phone for them instead of worrying about finding your machine or journal during the scary event.  

Share Your Results with Your Doctor

When it comes time for your telehealth visit, be sure to have everything readily available for your doctor. Your entire blood pressure log, complete with the time you took each reading as well as any symptoms you felt, is important for the visit. 

This is the time to ask your doctor about any fluctuations you may have experienced. As well as any questions you may have about how to take your blood pressure properly. 

Your doctor will be interested in when your highest and lowest readings occurred as well as any symptoms that accompanied them. To save time, locate these instances in your journal before the appointment. 

Can an Online Doctor Prescribe BP Medication?

An online doctor can prescribe different blood pressure medications. Have your local pharmacy name and address readily available to give to them during your visit. 

Once you have been diagnosed, a telehealth doctor can prescribe medications as needed. A medical provider can prescribe blood pressure medications to get you started on the path to good blood pressure control. 

Key Things to Know About Your Online Appointment

Before your first appointment, not only do you need to keep a record of your blood pressure levels but also research as to how the particular telehealth provider does business. 

Some questions you should investigate before your first online appointment may include:

  •  Do they charge extra for a prescription?
  • Do you need to make a payment upfront?
  • What do you do if you lose internet connection during the appointment?
  • What measures does the provider take to ensure your privacy?
  • Will follow-up visits be required?

Figuring out the answers to these questions ahead of time can result in a smoother and quicker visit with your online doctor. 

Is Telehealth Effective for Managing High BP?

Is it worth using a telehealth doctor rather than going to your in-person doctor's office? 

Multiple case studies have proven telehealthcare's effectiveness in managing high blood pressure when patients were properly trained on how to use their at-home monitors.

Telehealthcare is just as effective as in-person care, so you don't have to worry about any health concerns related to the care's effectiveness. 

Advantages of Using an Online Doctor

Using a telehealth doctor is not only an effective way to manage your blood pressure but comes with multiple advantages over an in-person visit. A few of these advantages include:

  • Certain insurances may waive copays
    • Blue Cross Blue Shield and Aetna both do this
  • Easier to get an appointment
  • No need to expose yourself to the outside world during these trying times 
  • Potentially more cost-effective than in-person visits
  • These visits take less time out of your day

As doctor's ability to provide online care grows, so will the different blood pressure taking methods' effectiveness. Online doctor appointments will continue to grow as a reliable alternative to in-person appointments. 

Checking Your BP with An Online Doctor Can Be Easy

Telehealth is continuing to grow as a safe and effective alternative to in-person doctor appointments. As technology advances, we continue to find ways to get past complications like how to check your blood pressure at home. 

With the correct guidance and monitors, you can schedule your blood pressure online doctor appointment whenever you desire, knowing that you can easily check your blood pressure from home. Save yourself the time so that you can get back to relaxing instead of driving back and forth from your appointments. 


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