What to expect: Wearing a 24 hour blood pressure monitor

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When I became pregnant with my daughter in 2015 I started experiencing some new health problems. One of them was high blood pressure. At just 8 weeks pregnant I was put on bed rest for a considerable time and given medication too. Throughout my pregnancy, the high blood pressure persisted, despite me losing 2.5 stone during my pregnancy. I think it was possible a combination of stress and obviously the pressure on my body of growing a baby. After my daughter’s birth my blood pressure didn’t come down for a fair while! Anyway, fast forward to 2017 and I was trying to finally come off my blood pressure medication and start living life again! I had to wear a 24 hour blood pressure monitor to show my GP what an accurate days reading of my blood pressure was. This monitoring may be referred to as ambulatory blood pressure monitoring.

What to Expect: 24 hour blood pressure monitor

What to expect: 24 hour blood pressure monitor

When having the 24 hour blood pressure monitor I had to visit my GP early in the morning. Around 9am. My 24 hour blood pressure monitor was fitted by a nurse practitioner which meant I didn’t have to take up a GP appointment. I was then sent away, wearing the monitor, for 24 hours, to return again the following morning. The following morning I didn’t have to have an appointment and was able to just drop my 24 hour blood pressure monitor off at reception. Very handy! 

Anyway – fitting the 24 hour blood pressure monitor was simple enough. I went in, had the blood pressure cuff fitted to my right arm and that was it. Then I had to wear the 24 hour blood pressure monitor on a strap, over my arm. I was also able to put this down on the sofa next to me, and on my desk while I was working. I quickly got bored of having to wear the monitor but such is the life.

Things to know when wearing the 24 hour blood pressure monitor

Where appropriate clothing when you have it fitted. For me this meant I wore a vest top underneath my jumper. As it was cold when I had mine fitted. 

It WILL make you jump sometimes. One minute you’re just there, working, the next the cuff is inflating and making you jump out of your skin.

Beeping doesn’t mean you’re getting an awful reading. My machine beeped a few times and it was actually an error reading my blood pressure. That isn’t that big a deal, as it’ll read again within 20-30 minutes or 1 hour if wearing overnight. Try not to be anxious about wearing the 24 hour blood pressure monitor as it will pick up enough readings for your GP to analyse the results.

Can I refuse a 24 hour blood pressure monitor?

Yes, it is your body, and your choice. Personally I would never refuse one, even if they are a little painful and uncomfortable. I know my GP is looking after my health and I want to support them as much as possible. One day of discomfort is worth it to give my GP accurate results about my blood pressure. Blood pressure can be an indicator of potential health problems in the future and regulating it can prevent huge problems like strokes and heart problems. Ultimately your body is your own choice though and everyone has the right to refuse treatment or monitoring of any kind within the NHS.

Can I remove a 24 hour blood pressure monitor?

Yes, you can remove it. I’d advise not removing it unless you have to. Typically a 24 hour blood pressure monitor is fitted over a sleeve of plastic that they fit to your arm. This is designed to prevent the monitor moving too much, and to keep you comfortable. If you need to remove it then ensure you photograph how it was fit and make sure you fit it back in line with the artery on your arm, which is usually indicated on the cuff itself.

How do I sleep while wearing the 24 hour blood pressure monitor

Be prepared not to sleep a lot. Depending on the settings of your machine the frequency may be every 20 – 30 minutes during the day. At night this should drop down to reading around once per hour. However, it may still be every 30 minutes. So enjoy…! 

Personally I’m a very light sleeper so any time I need to wear the 24 hour blood pressure monitor I know I am not going to get lots of sleep. This is unfortunate, particularly if you need to go to work the following day, but I do find around 2-3am I just fall asleep from the exhaustion and get a few hours in. Just remember that your GP is likely asking you to wear this to get an accurate reading, and to know whether you need medication or not.

My 24 hour blood pressure monitor hurts

It may be painful to wear the cuff. If you’re sensitive to pain, or bruise easily, then you ARE going to be uncomfortable wearing the cuff. However, speaking as someone who has had two strokes I’d say wearing the cuff for a day is a lot less painful than a stroke! If your 24 hour blood pressure monitor hurts this is probably normal. It’s squeezing your arm, and bruising it again and again. Try to count calmly through the pain to help yourself. Also, stay relaxed and avoid clenching. If you clench this may give a higher reading.

Expect a bruised arm afterwards. Whether you are thin or not. The cuff will be inflating frequently throughout the day and night and this is likely to cause some bruising of your skin. I had a load of line bruises, that lasted for a good week.

What happens if your 24 hour blood pressure monitor isn’t taking readings?

If you notice that there are no visible readings on your monitor, when there were previously, then try to take preventative action when the monitor is taking a reading. When you feel the monitor start up try to keep your arm and hand still. Avoid movement while it is taking a reading and sit quietly if possible.

What happens once you’ve had the results of your 24 hour blood pressure monitor?

You’ll have to wait for the results to be analysed. Well, if your surgery is anything like mine. For me personally I had to drop my 24 hour blood pressure monitor back and then had to wait a few days for my GP to assess the results. This was frustrating but such is the life in the over stretched NHS!

You may have to have medication. Alternatively you may have to visit hospital to have further tests carried out depending on what your results are. Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring is a great way for medics to find out if you’re genuinely suffering high blood pressure or if it is stress related by ‘white coat syndrome’.

What happened when I had a 24 hour blood pressure monitor fitted

For me personally I was finally able to stop my medication on one occasion. While my blood pressure was still higher than it should be it wasn’t dangerously high now. Hooray! 

A year after I had another 24 hour blood pressure monitor fitted and this time I had to go on medication urgently. My blood pressure was one of the worst night-time readings that my GP has ever seen.

Want to check your blood pressure at home? Where can you buy a blood pressure monitor?

The links below are affiliate links.

*Omron M6 / *Omron Large Cuff / *Omron Evolv / *Omron RS2

I have the M6 and cuff shown above and have been using them for several years with no issues. The readings are accurate when compared to the ones my GP takes at a similar time. This is actually the same machine that my own GP uses. It is possible to get more sophisticated wrist blood pressure monitors now so I’ve shown one of those above too.

Would I wear a 24 hour blood pressure monitor again?

Absolutely. I was really pleased that my GP had an accurate look at the average day for me. Visiting my GP can give me higher blood pressure, as I get more anxious about my blood pressure being high. This was a vicious circle for me. I’ve had to wear one several times now, as I have had problems with my blood pressure since becoming pregnant in 2015. I know that my GP can get an accurate overview of my blood pressure and make the most informed decision about my health. If you’re suffering with anxiety worrying about it then I’d strongly advise you have the monitoring. It is just one day out of your life but the results could alert your GP to a potential health crisis before it happens. If you want to ask anymore questions you can find me on Twitter!

You can find out more about 24 hour blood pressure monitoring from the BHF.

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What to expect when you wear a 24 hour blood pressure monitor. Find out what to wear, how uncomfortable it is and when you get the results

24 Responses

  1. C Phipps September 12, 2017 / 9:05 am

    I am confused why would taking blood pressure meds stop you living life to the full , along with lots of other people I take blood pressure meds and its never slowed me down .

    • katykicker September 12, 2017 / 9:07 am

      When I was on meds I was on Beta blockers, these caused me side effects that meant I suffered from breathlessness, among other things, and I was under strict instructions not to exert myself. I’m talking about my own experiences, not those of others. I’m glad you are living your life to the fullest.

  2. Mellissa Ogrady July 16, 2018 / 6:04 pm

    Can you take it off to get changed thank you

    • katykicker July 16, 2018 / 6:22 pm

      Hiya! Absolutely! Just make sure you take it off just after it does a reading (usually on the hour/half hour) and then get changed and pop it back on as soon as possible.

      Also, make sure that the air tube is running in the same place (in line with the artery – there is usually a marker on it). Take a photograph if you’re worried about forgetting how to put it back on.

  3. Anonymous July 16, 2018 / 6:53 pm

    Thank you very much thought I would have to sleep in my clothes as didn’t think to ask

    • katykicker July 19, 2018 / 11:47 am

      You’re so welcome!

  4. Geoff Nunney March 18, 2019 / 12:22 pm

    Hi Katy. First thankyou for setting up this post. It is really appreciated. Just would appreciate some advice on the Sleeping position. My problem is I am tall (1m 96). The Nurse advised me to switch the machine from the right to the left at night. Do you have to move the black box and the machine over your shoulder or just the machine, I am slightly confused. Second, do you have to move it or can you leave it where it is and just sleep on your back. Thankyou

    • katykicker March 18, 2019 / 12:38 pm

      Hi Geoff, thanks for your kind message.

      The machine usually goes over your shoulder just to help the air tube not get in your way or get tangled up. And for convenience to carry it around with your hands still free.

      At night you can either leave it where it is, and sleep on your back, or you can put the box next to you in your bed and sleep on your side that doesn’t have the cuff fitted.

      Your machine should still work wherever you have it placed, as long as the air tube isn’t restricted and the cuff is in the correct position. There is usually a line inside the cuff to show you were to place in line with your artery.

      Ps – I’m not medically qualified so this is all just based on my own opinion.

      At night I’ve slept with the box on my bedside table next to me and it’s still recorded the readings correctly.

      Hope this helps!

  5. Jean Phillips May 2, 2019 / 2:36 pm

    Can I drive a short distance with a 24 hour monitor ? My car is automatic

  6. Lynne May 22, 2019 / 10:16 pm

    Thank you very much for an informative post. Wasn’t told any of this when I had mine fitted.

    • katykicker May 23, 2019 / 9:06 am

      So glad you found it helpful! Hope the results are kind to you x

  7. Kelky June 5, 2019 / 7:58 pm

    Hi my machine is reading e the last few time I’m guessing error , should I just take it off as it’s obviously not reading correctly now , do u think there will be enough with 12 hours of readings ? Thankyou

    • katykicker June 5, 2019 / 9:55 pm

      Hiya! I’m not a Doctor, should start by saying that! I have had this a few times I would suggest making sure the cuff is quite tight and that you’re not moving around when it is going off to take a reading. Leave it on as the night time readings, while really invasive and sleep disturbing, can be some of the most important readings.

  8. CHRISTINE DANN July 31, 2019 / 7:17 am

    Currently suffering the medieval torture of 24 hr BP monitoring. How can repeated pain, when pain is known to raise BP , give accurate reading of NORMAL blood pressure?

    • katykicker July 31, 2019 / 12:27 pm

      Hi Christine – I’m really sorry but I don’t have an answer for this! I’ve personally always had high readings, and lots of pain, so I hope if you have normal readings while it’s sore that it is good for you, but I’d suggest speaking to your doctor as I’m not medically qualified! x

    • Trish November 3, 2019 / 4:21 am

      I just finished mine. I have anxiety issues and frankly, having this very tight thing that goes off every half hour made me definitely more anxious than usual.
      I felt like I was strapped to a bomb, ready to go off.
      I do know that I constantly thought about it, obsessively, until I was asleep, for the short periods I was , my readings were low when I first woke up until my brain woke up. I do t know what they were when I slept through them. I don’t know if I did or not.
      I had to fight to be Distracted and to be calm. I have no idea what my results are, but I was so glad to get the straps and box off me, I am sure my pulse went down immediately.
      Anyway, it’s not a good way to determine your normal BP if you have an anxiety with the cuff.
      Also, I ended up with welts on my arm and felt very restricted. They say you can do normal activities, but I couldn’t.
      Science tech people need to come up with some monitoring device less triggering to anxious folks.
      I don’t think I am the only one.

      • katykicker November 5, 2019 / 9:37 am

        I absolutely understand this so much. I always feel really anxious when wearing it too so I don’t think it gives a very accurate reading on the basis that I’m not on edge when I’m not wearing it.

        I hope the results go well for you.

  9. Patricia Shaw October 24, 2019 / 8:39 pm

    My monitor keeps doing a long beep is this normal.???

    • katykicker October 27, 2019 / 10:38 am

      I’ve never had this happen so I’d recommend speaking to your Doctor!

  10. Anthony Endsor January 8, 2020 / 9:26 pm

    Hi. I have just had an NHS Health check, during which my blood pressure was very high. The nurse referred me to my GP who has now told me to do this 24 hour BP monitoring. The reason being, when I take readings at home my readings are much lower, so therefore at an acceptable level (usually about 124-132ish) whereas the doctor has records of 152-160. The GP has put this down to white coat syndrome, so wants to see my normal readings.
    My big reservation about this is sleeping. I am just wondering what would happen if I got this fitted at say 10am, and kept it on until 11pm, but took it off before going to bed. I believe this would give the doctor sufficient evidence for his records, but do you think this would be acceptable to them? I wouldn’t be prepared to wear it at night, so would refuse the test altogether in this case. Thanks.

    • katykicker January 8, 2020 / 9:53 pm

      Heya, let me start by saying I am NOT medically qualified.

      I have worn this multiple times now but have to say that my most recent reading found that overnight my blood pressure was SO much higher than the day, which is where the real danger for me is. Because of this my GP has been able to get me on medication to help me.

      Please do consider wearing it overnight. It is only one night of being uncomfortable but it really does give the GP such an accurate overview and that’s why they make it a 24 hour one.

      Personally I find I do eventually get a little fitful sleep but I arrange to wear it overnight and take the following day off work to allow me to recover.

      It could be white coat syndrome or it could even be the exertion of attending the GP is causing it to go a little too high. Either way I know it’s a bit upsetting to have to wear one but the overnight readings can be the most valuable ones as I learned recently!

      Take care!

      • Anthony Endsor January 8, 2020 / 10:17 pm

        Thanks for your help.
        Yes I understand you’re not medically qualified and can only speak from your own experience, but your advice is very valuable nonetheless.
        I’m surprised to hear your night time readings were higher. I guess our bodies work in mysterious ways 🙂
        Take care.

        • katykicker January 10, 2020 / 10:20 am

          They do! I hope it goes well for you if you decide to go ahead.

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