Using an Ambulatory Blood Pressure Monitor

If you have high blood pressure (hypertension), your doctor may ask you to use an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This is a small machine, about the size of a portable radio. You wear it on a belt for 24 hours. The blood pressure cuff on the monitor can be worn under your clothes without anyone seeing it. This monitor records your blood pressure every 15 to 30 minutes of a normal day. The information collected can help you and your doctor see if your blood pressure treatment is working.

Path to improved health

Not everyone with high blood pressure is asked to wear a monitor. Your doctor may want you to use an ambulatory blood pressure monitor if:

  • You have “borderline” high blood pressure.
  • You and your doctor can’t keep your blood pressure under control.
  • You have blood pressure problems caused by your other medicines.
  • You have changed your medicine.
  • You are pregnant and have high blood pressure.
  • You have fainting spells.

The monitor may help your doctor find out if you are a person who only has high blood pressure when you are at the doctor’s office. This is called “white-coat hypertension.” It is called this because your blood pressure rises when you are nervous or fearful of medical environments. If you have this kind of hypertension, you may not need to take blood pressure medicine.

The small blood pressure cuff that is connected to the monitor will automatically check your blood pressure about every 30 minutes. This includes while you are sleeping. You also will be asked to keep a diary of your day’s activities. This gives your doctor information about when you were active and when you were resting. After 24 hours of monitoring, you will take the machine and your diary to the doctor’s office. The blood pressure information is transferred from the monitor to a computer. The computer helps the doctor make sense of the information. Your doctor will review the information with you and decide if your treatment program is working or if you need to make changes.

Things to consider

  • Some people feel a little sore from the frequent pressure checks.
  • Some people get a rash from the blood pressure cuff. It usually goes away without treatment.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Will my insurance pay for the monitor?
  • Will I be able to read the monitor to see if I’m having high blood pressure at any given time?
  • What is wearing the monitor annoys me or stresses me out? Will this cause my blood pressure to rise?
  • Will I have to wear the monitor for longer than 24 hours?