Taking blood pressure: this is what matters

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From the age of 18, people should have their blood pressure taken at least once a year: either at the doctor, the pharmacy, or at home. What needs to be noted.

Knowing your blood pressure is important for one reason in particular: if it is permanently too high, your organs and arteries are at risk. The problem is that high blood pressure, or hypertension, doesn’t cause pain, nor any other symptoms. Because it often remains undetected for a long time, it is also known as the ‘silent killer’.

According to the Swiss Heart Foundation, if hypertension is diagnosed and treated early enough, the risk of secondary diseases such as a heart attack or stroke is significantly reduced. This is where it helps to have your blood pressure taken regularly and correctly.

Ruling out false results

It's good to know that blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day, which is perfectly normal. It rises in the morning after getting up and drops again towards lunchtime. It reaches its highest level in the evening, and its lowest while the body sleeps. Temporary fluctuations also occur, such as when we exert ourselves physically, get angry or excited, or when we're under stress or in pain.

Another famous factor is the ‘white coat effect’. This can cause a person’s blood pressure to rise in the presence of a medical specialist, or simply through being in a practice or clinic. In these cases, taking your blood pressure at home will demonstrate whether your level really is too high. One thing is sure: one reading is not enough. It’s important to check your blood pressure several times.

If you take your blood pressure yourself, you need to note the following points:

When buying a monitor

  • Practical models are those designed for the upper arm or wrist. Test different models in a specialist shop to see which suits you best. With upper arm monitors, make sure that the cuff fits well.
  • The monitor should comply with Swiss standards, be calibrated and clinically tested.

When measuring blood pressure

  • First measure on both arms, then afterwards always on the arm that showed higher levels.
  • Schedule the measurements in the morning, after going to the toilet and before the first coffee.
  • Take your time and relax for at least five minutes.
  • Sit on a chair, leaning against the back of the chair, legs apart, not crossed. Lay your – unclothed – arm on the table.
  • The upper-arm cuff is now automatically at the same height as the heart. When measuring from the wrist, bend your arm to achieve the same effect.
  • Then measure your blood pressure. Wait ten minutes, measure again. If the readings strongly diverge, take a third reading. The mean value of the last two readings is the one to record.
  • Note the upper (systolic) and lower (diastolic) results together with the date and time in your blood pressure passport and discuss the results with your doctor.

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