Do you plan to start using a blood pressure monitor? You’re part of a growing group. Doctors are telling more and more people with high blood pressure to check their numbers at home.
Why? At the doctor’s office, your blood pressure reading only shows your numbers at that moment. A home monitor lets you check it often. This can give your doctor a better idea of your true blood pressure. The best way to know for sure if you have high blood pressure is to measure it several times a day for a few months.
There are lots of home blood pressure monitors to choose from. Many cost less than $100. You don’t need a prescription to get one. You can find them at your local pharmacy, a discount store, a medical supply store, and online.
You can even choose a model that you wear on your arm or wrist during the day. But not all of these are accurate. That’s why it’s important to bring your blood pressure monitor to the doctor before you start to use it. They can test it against the ones used in their office.
There are two basic types of monitors that use an arm cuff:
Aneroid monitors: You squeeze a bulb to inflate the cuff around your upper arm. Then you read a gauge to find your blood pressure. These are the least expensive options, but they’re also easy to damage.
Digital monitors: On some models you inflate the cuff. On others the machine does it for you. Your reading appears on a small screen. Some even offer a paper printout. They’re easy to use and read.
Wrist Monitors: Pros and Cons
They may be less accurate than the ones that use a cuff. That’s because you need to take the reading with your arm at heart level. Other positions can affect your numbers. But they could be a good option if a cuff monitor hurts or if your upper arm is too large for one.
What About Apps?
Many smartphone apps claim to measure blood pressure, but can you trust the results? Early research suggests you can’t -- at least not yet.
One small study found readings from a popular blood pressure app were highly inaccurate. A review of several apps notes that most haven’t been scientifically proven to give correct readings. It recommends more studies before apps are used for medical purposes.
The home blood pressure monitor you choose should be the one that’s right for you, not necessarily the one your friend or neighbor likes. Follow this smart shopper checklist:
Make sure it fits. An arm cuff that’s the wrong size can affect your readings. Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist can tell you what size you need.
It’s OK to be frugal. A high-tech wireless monitor can cost $200, but it may not be better or more accurate than a much less expensive model. Many top-rated blood pressure monitors cost between $40 and $75. Check to see if your insurance company will cover it.
Think about features. Do you want multiple cuffs? Do you need a device that stores information for more than one user? How about a large display? These features and more are available on different models.
Ease of use. You may find some monitors simpler to use and read than others. Try out a few before you choose.