Home blood pressure monitors are a handy health tool
The World Heart Federation estimates that at least 970 million people worldwide have high blood pressure or hypertension -- a risk factor for coronary heart disease and stroke. Research indicates that at-home self-measurement of blood pressure can help your stay healthy in several ways:
- It provides more blood pressure measurements within a limited period.
- Seeing results immediately and having more control over your treatment can serve as an incentive to control blood pressure.
- A log of blood pressure readings can be helpful to your healthcare provider when adjusting your medication(s), and diagnosing and preventing problems.
- Being able to check your blood pressure in a variety of situations (at work, for example) may give a clearer picture of your overall blood pressure health.
- Self-measurement can help detect "white coat" hypertension, an elevation in blood pressure brought on by the anxiety of being in a doctor's office.
- Those with normal blood pressure can verify an important health number and be proactive.
Visiting your doctor to have your blood pressure taken every single day isn't really practical, and the public-use blood pressure cuffs located in some pharmacies can get out of calibration, resulting in very inaccurate readings. So if your doctor wants you to track your blood pressure -- or if you want to be proactive and track it yourself -- you're going to need a portable blood pressure monitor you can use at home.
Monitoring your blood pressure at home doesn't take the place of medical consults, but, when combined with your physician's measurements, home measurements can be a powerful tool for taking control of your health.
When you're shopping for a home blood pressure cuff, usability and accuracy are the two most important features to take into account. Experts warn that the difficulty of correctly positioning a wrist monitor introduces a larger margin of error than with upper-arm cuffs, but some users find wrist monitors to be more comfortable and easier to put on.
What should I look for in an at-home blood pressure monitor?
All of the home blood pressure monitors discussed in this report are automatic, digital models -- they inflate themselves and take the reading for you, usually at the push of a single button. The entire process takes about 30 to 50 seconds.
Even so, taking your own blood pressure can be a bit of a balancing act, so the best blood pressure monitors have semi-rigid cuffs that are easy to get on and off your arm or wrist. Other features to look for include a large, easy-to-read display and a memory function for storing your readings over time. You can find out what else to look for in the buyer's guide section of this report.
You can get a perfectly adequate home blood pressure cuff that meets our basic criteria for performance, features and ease of use for around $40 to $50. If you want more advanced features -- such as an extra-large display or the ability to speak your blood pressure readings (useful for those with vision impairment), or a USB port for uploading your readings to a computer -- be prepared to pay anywhere from $60 to $110, or more.
No matter what sort of blood pressure cuff you get, experts recommend taking it to your doctor's office for comparison against medical-grade equipment. That gives you a baseline for determining how accurate your home monitor's measurements really are.
You must also read the manufacturer's instructions and follow them closely in order to get accurate readings. We have yet to see a home blood pressure monitor that doesn't receive a noteworthy number of complaints about accuracy, and it's a sure bet that those complaints often stem from incorrect use.
ConsumerSearch editors evaluated hundreds of reviews, as well as expert ratings, to determine the best blood pressure monitors for performance, ease of use and features. Any of these would be a great addition to your home health kit.