How to measure your waist
Getting your blood pressure in check
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease. It’s important to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. If you think you may be at risk or you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, here is some step-by-step information on how to manage it successfully.
What is high blood pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure or force of blood against the walls of your blood vessels (known as arteries). The top number represents the pressure when your heart contracts and pushes blood out (systolic) and the bottom number is the lowest pressure when the heart relaxes between beats (diastolic).
Blood pressure that is consistently more than 140/90 mm Hg when measured in the doctor’s office or 135/85 mmHg when measured at home is considered high. If you have diabetes, 140/90 mm Hg is high.
Normal blood pressure is between 120/80 mm Hg and 129/84 mm Hg.
If your blood pressure is between 130/85 mm Hg and 139/89 mm Hg, you have "high-normal" blood pressure, which is more likely to develop into high blood pressure.
How do I check my blood pressure?
The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to get your blood pressure checked by your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider. For the general public, we recommend you get your blood pressure checked at least once every year. If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (or other related conditions), your doctor will recommend it be checked more often. Be sure to ask your doctor how often you should have your blood pressure checked.
What are blood pressure ranges?
One high reading does not necessarily mean you have high blood pressure. If you have one high reading, you should have it measured at least two more times on separate days to check whether it is consistently high.
Keep a record of your blood pressure readings. This record will help you and your doctor determine whether your blood pressure is within a healthy range. Whether your high blood pressure will be treated, and how it is treated, will depend upon many factors.
How does high blood pressure cause heart disease and stroke?
Over time, high blood pressure can damage blood vessel walls, causing scarring that promotes the build-up of fatty plaque. This build-up can narrow and eventually block arteries. It also strains the heart and eventually weakens it. Very high blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to burst resulting in a stroke.
What can I do to control my blood pressure?
High blood pressure can be caused by many factors. You can't control some factors, such as age, ethnicity and gender. Other factors, such as diet, exercise and smoking can be changed through lifestyle changes to reduce your risk for high blood pressure.
How do I measure my blood pressure at home?
Home monitoring can assist your doctor in diagnosing your blood pressure correctly. Some people have higher blood pressure when they visit the doctor's office. However, as they go about their usual daily activities,they have normal blood pressure. This condition is called "white coat" hypertension (referring to the white coat worn by the healthcare provider).
On the other hand, some people have normal blood pressure when measured in the doctor's office, but have high blood pressure in other situations. This is known as "masked" hypertension. Your doctor may ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home if needed.
It is important to make sure that your home monitor is taking correct measurements so your healthcare provider will have an accurate overview of your blood pressure.
What should I do if I am thinking about buying a home monitor?
Before you buy a home monitor, you'll need to know your correct cuff size. To find your cuff size:
How can I ensure I'm taking accurate readings at home?
Accurate readings also depend on how you prepare to take your blood pressure. Follow these steps to get the most accurate reading:
How to buy a home blood pressure monitor?
Hypertension Canada educates the public on how to measure blood pressure at home. Your doctor or pharmacist can help you choose a monitor and select a cuff size that is right for you.
The Foundation suggests that the unit be automated instead of manual. Advise your doctor or pharmacist if you have an irregular heart rhythm as some devices may not be advised for individuals with an irregular heartbeat. The Foundation further recommends that you select a device recommended by Hypertension Canada.
Once you have purchased a home monitor, take it to your healthcare provider’s office once or twice a year to make sure it continues to give accurate readings.
Look for this logo or ask a healthcare provider to help you choose the right home blood pressure monitor.
Last reviewed: January 2012
Last modified: June 2013