Hypertension is often diagnosed during a routine visit to your doctor. Blood pressure is measured using a cuff around your arm and a device called a sphygmomanometer. You may be asked to sit quietly for 5 minutes before checking your blood pressure.
For most people, it takes more than one high blood pressure reading to diagnose high blood pressure. If your blood pressure reading is high, a second measurement will be done a few minutes later. If your blood pressure is still high, you will probably be asked to come back for repeat blood pressure checks. High blood pressure diagnosis will be made using the average of more than 2 readings over 130/80 mmHg during more than 2 separate visits.
Sometimes people become anxious at the doctor's office. This may result in a higher than normal blood pressure reading. You may be asked to measure your blood pressure at home or in another location.
In some cases, you may be asked to wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This device measures your blood pressure regularly throughout the day as you go about your activities. It is usually worn for 24 hours, even while sleeping.
How high blood pressure is diagnosed. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofHighBloodPressure/How-High-Blood-Pressure-is-Diagnosed_UCM_301873_Article.jsp. Updated September 16, 2016. Accessed September 20, 2016.
How is high blood pressure diagnosed? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/diagnosis. Updated September 10, 2015. Accessed September 20, 2016.
Hypertension. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension. Updated August 29, 2016. Accessed September 20, 2016.
Hypertension diagnosis and treatment (guideline). Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement website. Available at: https://www.icsi.org/guidelines__more/catalog_guidelines_and_more/catalog_guidelines/catalog_cardiovascular_guidelines/hypertension. Updated November 2014. Accessed September 20, 2016.
1/5/2018 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T115345/Hypertension: Whelton PK, Carey RM, et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Hypertension. 2017 Nov 13. [Epub ahead of print].
Last reviewed September 2017 by Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.