What is a Good Blood Pressure Reading and How to Check It at Home

Even a reading slightly above 120/80 is now considered as prehypertensive.
Even a reading slightly above 120/80 is now considered as prehypertensive. | Source

What is a normal blood pressure reading?

  • Normal Reading: According to the American Heart Association, a reading less than 120/80 is considered normal.
  • Prehypertension: Prehypertension is any reading between 121/81 through 139/89.

What is Blood Pressure Video

What is Systolic Pressure?

Systolic pressure is the top number.

The systolic pressure reading is the larger number you traditionally see on top when seeing a blood pressure reading such as, 120/80. The 120 would represent the systolic pressure. This number represents the point when your heart beats (contracts). This is the point when the heart pumps the blood out of the heart and sends it to the whole body.

What is Diastolic Pressure?

Diastolic pressure is the bottom number.

The diastolic pressure reading is the lower number you traditionally see on the bottom of a blood pressure reading. If we use 120/80 as an example, the 80 would represent the diastolic pressure. This number represents the point when your heart relaxes and subsequently takes in the returning blood from the body.

Blood Pressure Ranges - Based on recommendations by the American Heart Association

121 - 139
81 - 89
High Blood Pressure: Stage 1
140 - 159
90 - 99
High Blood Pressure: Stage 2
160 or above
100 or above
Emergency care needed
180 or above
110 or above

Investing in a blood pressure machine for your home

If you or family members face high blood pressure, or other heart issues, it would be a wise choice to invest in a home blood pressure machine. They are fairly economical and will help you monitor your blood pressure from the convenience of your home on a regular basis.

Personally, I keep mine on my nightstand and I check my blood pressure at least three times a week. I try to check it at the same time of day and with the same arm. Your blood pressure readings will and can vary at different times of the day. If you were going to log your blood pressure readings I would recommend writing down the time of day and repeating that schedule on a regular basis.

Suggestion: Avoid investing in a wrist monitor. A variety of organizations state a wrist monitor is not as accurate as an arm cuff monitor.

How to use a blood pressure machine at home.

Most pharmacies and general drugstores have blood pressure machines available for home use. They are not very expensive and would be a wise investment for anyone diagnosed with prehypertension or true hypertension. Most range between $30 to $70 US dollars. The machines usually include a memory button for backtracking as well as a pulse monitor for evaluating your heart rate. Some machines will even alert you to any unusual heart rhythms, or palpitations.

Using a machine at home is easy and only takes about one minute to use. Take a look at the photo tutorial below for examples of how to properly use a blood pressure machine at home.


The diagram above is featured on the inside of my personal blood pressure cuff. It is a wonderful reminder of how the cuff should be placed on the arm.


It is very important for the cuff to be placed properly. Readings will not be accurate if you are not using the cuff correctly with each reading.

  1. Place the cuff around your lower bicep.
  2. Lightly wrap the cuff and secure the edge of the cuff to the Velcro. (Do not make the cuff too tight. You should be able to easily insert a finger in between your arm and your cuff)
  3. The edge of the cuff should end about 1/2 an inch above the crease of your arm.
  4. Be sure the reading tube is centered with a direct imaginary line to your wrist.


Once you have properly aligned and secured your cuff you can take your reading.

Important points:

  • Remain still.
  • Do not strain, talk or laugh.
  • Coughing or sneezing during a blood pressure reading will inhibit an accurate result. Wait a couple of minutes and try again.


Machines and instructions may vary. I've noticed that some public blood pressure machines in drugstores direct you to keep the palm up, while others state to leave the palm down. My machine instructs me to keep my wrist relaxed and facing up. Be sure to follow the specific instructions for your respective machine.


  • Try not to switch arms when recording readings. If you do, it is best to document that you have done so. Different arms can result in different readings. You will want to remain consistent when supplying blood pressure data to your personal physician.
  • Do not take blood pressure readings within 30 minutes of drinking coffee, alcohol or smoking.
  • Doing exercise before a blood pressure reading may give you a higher reading than what your normal pressure really is.
  • The American Heart Association recommends sitting quietly with your feet flat on the floor for at least five minutes before taking a reading.


Risk Factors that may cause High Blood Pressure

  • Overweight
  • Diabetes
  • High Cholesterol
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Sedentary Lifestyle
  • Smoking
  • Bad Diet (excessive caffeine, alcohol, salt and fats)
  • Stress
  • Genetics and Family History

I invested in my own machine when I was diagnosed with prehypertension. The readings above are clear that I need to remain vigilant.

Let's review the terminology:

  • Systolic pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading. This represents when the heart beats and pumps the blood to the body.
  • Diastolic pressure is the number that appears below the systolic pressure. This reading represents the moment the heart relaxes and blood is filling the heart chamber.
  • Pulse is the reading of your heart rate, or heart beats per minute.

How to Monitor Your Blood Pressure at Home Video

Understanding Blood Pressure Anatomy Video

Foods That Lower Blood Pressure

The nitrates and minerals in certain foods lower blood pressure. The foods that show the most effective results are high in potassium, magnesium, nitrates and calcium.

"A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and with reduced saturated and total fat can substantially lower blood pressure." The New England Journal of Medicine

Do you remember what you learned?

Take the quiz below and see if you understand the different blood pressure readings and terminology. The quiz will cover the following information presented in this Hub:

  • Blood pressure readings.
  • Range of normal to emergency blood pressure readings.
  • Blood pressure terminology.

No cheating!

Blood Pressure Quiz:

Disclaimer: Information in this hub is research based. The author is not a physician and does not diagnose or treat health issues. The information provided in this hub should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. Please consult a physician for medical and dietary advice and treatment. Blood pressure should not be treated without the supervision of a medical professional.

© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares

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Comments 24 comments

josh3418 profile image

josh3418 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

Olive, can I say HOTD?! Well, i just did! :) I enjoyed this very informative hub, excellent pictures, layout, and easy instructions. My mother is diabetic and has been checking her blood pressure for several years now. So, I know the information on how to do it, and this is spot on! Great job! :) Voted up, awesome, useful, and sharing!

Francesca27 profile image

Francesca27 4 years ago from Hub Page

I'm a visual person. Thanks for the photos.

rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

Marisa, an excellent hub with very useful photos and markers outlining the correct way to use the BP instrument for BP measurement. A very well explained hub in simple layman's language.

I'm including a link to this hub in my hub on 'Natural home remedies for high blood pressure or hypertension'. I hope you don't mind.

Voted up, useful and shared.

maggs224 profile image

maggs224 4 years ago from Sunny Spain

A very informative hub written in an interesting and easy to read way. For the first time I have understood this subject and I have found it personally very helpful so thank you very much for posting this. I am voting this hub up and hitting the useful and interesting buttons on my way out :-)

RealHousewife profile image

RealHousewife 4 years ago from St. Louis, MO

Great job! I think this is really great - I love the photos and instructions. I used to have to take vitals and form some reason so many of the techs hated doing BP readings - it was easy and I guess some people have a really hard time hearing.


sholland10 profile image

sholland10 4 years ago from Southwest Missouri

This is a great informational hub. My family is a mixture of low and high blood pressure. We are very vigilant about keeping track.

Everyone should invest in a blood pressure monitor. It is so important to prevent the many health problems that can be caught just by knowing your blood pressure.

Your layout looks great, and I love how you use real pictures to show the correct and incorrect way of using the blood pressure monitor.

Great Hub! Votes and Shares!

billybuc profile image

billybuc 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

Great information! It is so easy to get a BP reading nowadays and so important to do so. I am blessed with good BP but I still check it regularly.

melbel profile image

melbel 4 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

Mine is usually 114 over 84. What does that mean? I looked at your chart and it seems like my blood pressure doesn't fit.

This is awesome, by the way! I never knew what all those number meant!

Hee, hee, is it weird that getting my blood pressure taken is my least favorite part of going to the doctor (besides sitting in the waiting room with sick people)? It chokes my poor little arm!

Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 4 years ago from United States

This a very informative hub and I learned a couple of things after being a nurse for 22 years. Thanks for such thorough information.,

LadyLyell profile image

LadyLyell 4 years ago from George, South Africa

A very informative article, my husband experiences low blood pressure causing dizziness.

Have a nice day!

Vellur profile image

Vellur 4 years ago from Dubai

Very informative and useful hub. Omron is very good and shows accurate reading.

tillsontitan profile image

tillsontitan 4 years ago from New York

Great information presented in a way everyone can understand. High Blood pressure can be a silent killer so we really need to watch it. Low blood pressure can cause major problems as well.

Voted up, useful and interesting.

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

This hub is so informative. well designed, and researched! Your chart is one that helped me to understand the readings. I know those that need help in doing this at home will be grateful. Voted up.

Just Ask Susan profile image

Just Ask Susan 4 years ago from Ontario, Canada

We have a blood pressure monitor but after reading your hub I'm not really sure if when used the cuff was on correctly. I will now know next time the correct way.

Very useful and informative hub!

missolive profile image

missolive 4 years ago from Texas Author

josh3418, Francesca27, rajan jolly, maggs224, RealHousewife, sholland10, billybuc, melbel, Pamela99, LadyLyell, Vellur, tillsotitan, teaches12345, and Just Ask Susan

Wow! What wonderful comments. I want to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to read and comment. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is very important and I'm thrilled so many of you found this information useful and informative. I do appreciate all the sharing as well. Continued best wishes to all of you. Thanks again!

tsmog profile image

tsmog 4 years ago from Escondido, CA

Oddly, I ponder the wizard of oz now. Why was this informative, well defined, easy to read, easy to understand, and important hub on my wall or home location. Thank you for this article missolive. Like I told TT, message received. I use to check mine twice a day. I have challenges with low blood pressure and sometimes a rapid heart beat - not a good mix. I'll start that up again. My primary care doc will be proud of me again. I'll share with him the inspiration.


I leave while giving a high five

cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 4 years ago from Western NC

Now, you need to take some time to relax! Eat some garlic. You might be a little, um, scented, but you'll lower your blood pressure. Hehehe. In all seriousness, this is a great hub and I am loving your pictures and explanations. Great job!

HouseBuyersUS profile image

HouseBuyersUS 4 years ago from Centreville, Virginia, USA

Great information...very useful for checking BP at home. thanks for sharing.

missolive profile image

missolive 4 years ago from Texas Author

tsmog, wizard of Oz....hmmmmm Stay away from striped stockings :) I'm glad you found my hub useful and I am pleased to know it has inspired you to monitor your BP again. High five right back atcha'!

cclitgirl, relax? What is that? Garlic is something I do family may not be too happy about close conversations though. Thanks for the great comment and compliments.

HousebuyersUS, thank you so much...glad to share

mperrottet profile image

mperrottet 3 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

Great information - I really like the pictures of the right and wrong way to take your pressure. Voted up, useful and interesting.

cclitgirl profile image

cclitgirl 3 years ago from Western NC

Came back to comment - I hope you're taking care of yourself. Hehe.

missolive profile image

missolive 3 years ago from Texas Author

mperrottet, thank you! I'm glad the pictures are useful. I appreciate the votes.

cclitgirl, Hi there! I am certainly trying...thanks :)

Wendell Patterson profile image

Wendell Patterson 3 years ago from Alabama

Great hub, hypertension is the silent killer and so many people are unaware that they even have hypertension.

missolive profile image

missolive 3 years ago from Texas Author

Wendell Patterson, thank you so much. Isn't that the truth? I have many co-workers that will suddenly decide to get a physical and they find out they have hypertension. We need to be more vigilant. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, it is greatly appreciated.

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