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Home Blood Pressure Kits: Quality Varies

Consumer Reports Finds Wide Range of Accuracy in Home Tests for Hypertension and Blood Glucose
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 4, 2008 -- There are many products to choose from to check your blood pressure or blood glucose at home, but they vary in accuracy, an investigation by Consumer Reports finds.

Consumer Reports tested 16 home blood pressure monitors and 13 blood glucose meters and found "big differences in accuracy and consistency" among the products.

The results of the investigation appear in the September issue of the magazine.

"The main message is that not all blood pressure and blood glucose monitors are alike in terms of accuracy and ease of use," Consumers Union Chief Medical Advisor Marvin M. Lipman, MD, tells WebMD. Consumers Union is a nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports.

None of the tested monitors received a "not recommended" rating, but several were rated fair or poor in terms of accuracy.

Among the major findings from the investigation:

  • Automatic upper-arm cuff blood pressure monitors tended to give better readings than wrist monitors.
  • Price was not a good predictor of accuracy with blood glucose meters. Two of the cheapest models tested were among the four highest scorers.
  • The only combined blood pressure/blood glucose monitor tested scored poorly, ranking 16th out of 16 in the accuracy of blood pressure readings.
  • A blood pressure monitor and a blood glucose monitor sold at Wal-Mart were amongst the best performing and least expensive models tested.

Blood Pressure Monitors

Seventy-three million Americans have high blood pressure, and for an estimated 65% of them, the condition is poorly controlled.

Because of this, the American Heart Association and other health groups recommend that anyone with known or suspected hypertension routinely monitor blood pressure at home.

American Heart Association spokesman David A. Meyerson, MD, who is director of cardiology consultative services at John's Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, says the accuracy of the new generation of home blood pressure monitors prompted the recommendation.

"Doctors used to feel that the blood pressure readings they got in their offices were the only ones they could rely on, but that has changed," he tells WebMD. "Home testing is now an important part of monitoring. When a patient brings in twice-daily readings for a month I have a much more accurate record of their blood pressure control than I would get with office readings taken three or four times a year."

In earlier tests by Consumers Union, finger-type blood pressure monitors performed so poorly that they were not even included in the current analysis, Lipman says. "The finger monitors are vastly inferior and the wrist monitors don't work as well as the arm. It seems that the closer you get to the heart, the better off you are."

The American Heart Association also recommends automatic upper-arm cuff monitors, but not the wrist or finger devices.

"The accuracy and variability of the readings we have seen with finger and wrist monitors are so wide that we can't recommend them," Meyerson says.

Of the 16 monitors tested, the top four were all upper-arm cuff devices and all were judged excellent for accuracy.

They were:

  • Omron's Women's Advanced Elite 7300W ($100)
  • CVS by Microlife Delux Advanced 344534 ($90)
  • Omron's HEM-711AC ($90)
  • ReliOn HEM-741CREL from Wal-Mart ($40)

The Duo-Care combined blood glucose and wrist blood pressure monitor was the poorest performing blood-pressure monitor tested, receiving the only poor rating for accuracy.

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