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 you stay healthy in several ways:
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, ease of use 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.
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 own 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 buying 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, a cuff that speaks your blood pressure readings (useful for those with vision impairment) or Bluetooth connectivity with your mobile device -- be prepared to pay more, although blood pressure monitors are still very affordable -- our best reviewed model with Bluetooth capability comes in at just about $70 and will last for years.
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 and consistent 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 user reviews and expert ratings to determine the best blood pressure monitors for performance, ease of use and features. See our reports on blood glucose monitors and digital thermometers for other items that can round out your home health kit.
The very best-reviewed of all -- with the best mix of accuracy and advanced features -- is the wireless Omron BP786. Owners say this model is easy to use and very accurate; it also gets an excellent accuracy rating from a leading consumer research laboratory. Its many useful features include a built-in calibration check system; a TruRead mode that takes three consecutive readings one minute apart, then displays the average; an irregular heartbeat detector; and two user accounts, with storage for 100 date- and time-stamped blood pressure readings in each.
The most impressive feature, however, is the BP786's Bluetooth compatibility with iOS and Android mobile devices. Once you download the free Omron Wellness app, you can access, share or chart your readings from anywhere, or import them into the Apple Health app. One unexpected benefit of this wireless capability is that the sight-impaired can have their phone read the results to them out loud.
Despite all that functionality, you don't have to have a smartphone or tablet to use the Omron BP786, and many users appreciate its simple operation: All you really have to do is press the brightly colored Start/Stop button. The large screen, with white numerals on a black background, is easy to read even for those with limited vision. User reviews of the Omron BP786 are almost universally positive, while reviews of its Bluetooth capability are mixed (but still quite good): It typically pairs with iOS devices quickly and easily, but may take a few tries to connect with your Android device, and not every Android device is supported.
The BP786's ComFit cuff spans the range of a medium to large cuff, fitting arms from 9 inches to 17 inches (23 cm to 43 cm) in diameter. Once you get the adjustable cuff set up just right, you can slip your arm in and out of the uninflated cuff easily -- no need for a second pair of hands. The BP786 is covered by a five-year warranty and doesn't have any notable durability issues.
If you have large upper arms, your best choice is the LifeSource UA-789AC (Est. $90). The cuff on this monitor fits arms between 16.5 and 23.6 inches (42 and 60 cm) in circumference, and users love the way it's slightly tapered to provide a better fit. They also say this blood pressure monitor is durable -- some users have had theirs for several years with no problem -- and most say it's quite accurate when compared against a manual blood pressure cuff in their doctor's office.
The LifeSource UA-789AC has a fairly simple range of features: It detects an irregular heartbeat, stores up to 90 blood pressure and pulse readings in memory, and has a large, easy-to-read display. It runs off an included AC adapter or four AA batteries (not included).
If you want a simpler blood pressure monitor, there are a few viable alternatives that still offer accurate readings at about half the price of their high-end competition.
One top budget pick, the ReliOn BP200 (Est. $40) upper-arm monitor, which is sold exclusively through Walmart, can store up to 30 readings in each of two user accounts. The readings for this unit are marked with a date and time stamp, which can help reveal trends in your blood pressure readings over time.
Owners say the ReliOn BP200 is easy to use straight out of the box, and it receives an excellent accuracy rating from a leading consumer organization. The wide range of its cuff -- from 9 to 17 inches in arm circumference -- is also a plus for those with larger arms. A few years ago we noticed a rash of durability concerns with the BP200, but more recent user reviews indicate that the newer versions of this home blood pressure monitor hold up well.
Another highly rated, inexpensive blood pressure cuff, the Panasonic EW3109W (Est. $42), receives an excellent accuracy rating from a leading consumer research laboratory, and users say it's very precise. Said users are even more pleased, however, with the monitor's most notable feature: It measures your blood pressure as the cuff inflates, instead of pumping the cuff up to a set pressure and then measuring your blood pressure as it lets the air out. This helps eliminate the discomfort and -- in extreme cases -- bruising that some associate with upper-arm blood pressure cuffs.
The EW3109W's sparse selection of features includes one-touch inflation; a large, easy-to-read display; and a 90-reading memory capacity for one user. That memory storage isn't automatic, though -- you have to push a button to store each reading, and they're not marked with a date or time stamp.
Excluding the issue with the memory function, owners say the Panasonic EW3109W is fast and easy to use. It's backed by a two-year warranty and can accommodate arm circumferences of 7.75 to 15.75 inches (20 to 40 cm) with the default cuff; you can also buy a large cuff (Est. $23) that fits arms of 13.75 to 17.33 inches (35 to 40 cm). The EW3109W is covered by a two-year warranty and runs off four AA batteries (included) or an optional AC adapter, which can be purchased separately.
So: If you're particularly sensitive to the discomfort of using an upper-arm blood pressure cuff, your best choice is the Panasonic EW3109W. If you have large upper arms, go for the LifeSource UA-789AC. For a bargain that still offers the very handy feature of date- and time-stamped readings, consider the ReliOn BP200. And if you want the general all-around best-performing, feature-rich monitor that also happens to be smartphone compatible, go for the Omron 10 Series BP786 -- but be prepared to spend a little quality time with its owner's manual before you're able to use all its features.
Some people have a hard time finding an upper-arm blood pressure cuff that fits well, or find the whole process of having their arm squeezed to be very uncomfortable. If either of these sound like you, you might have a more pleasant experience with a wrist blood pressure monitor, which most users say are a lot more comfortable than upper arm monitors.
The biggest downside of wrist monitors is that you must have them positioned just so, every single time, to get accurate and consistent readings. Our best-reviewed model, the Omron BP652N (Est. $55), makes that easy with lights that signal proper positioning: orange when the monitor is out of position, blue when it's lined up correctly. You can also set it to give audible signals.
The BP652N draws excellent accuracy and comfort ratings from a leading consumer research organization, and quite a few owners say they've compared it with their doctor's equipment and found it to be very accurate. However, all of that is dependent on mastering the learning curve that goes with its positioning guidance system. (You also have the option of turning the guidance system off, but it does come in handy for many users.)
The previous version of the BP652N offered two separate user accounts (with storage for up to 100 blood pressure readings apiece), but a number of recent user reviews state that this function has been replaced with a single user account that stores up to 200 date- and time-stamped readings, even if product descriptions in online stores haven't always been updated to reflect this. It also comes with an irregular heartbeat alert, automatically shows how the user's blood pressure compares to international guidelines, and it can average up to three readings taken in a 10-minute span. The Omron BP652N comes with a storage case and is covered by a five-year limited warranty, although we found a few comments that customer service is so-so -- generally responsive, but not always very helpful.
If you feel you can get by without the Omron BP652N's positioning guidance system, the ReliOn BP300W (Est. $50) [no ASIN. Link here: http://www.walmart.com/ip/ReliOn-BP300W-Digital-Wrist-Blood-Pressure-Monitor/13281899] sold through Walmart receives very good scores for its accuracy and comfort from the same consumer research organization, and draws mostly positive comments from users who've taken it to their doctor's office for comparison. Said users report that the BP300W is simple, accurate and easy to use, with large, easy-to-read numbers on the display.
You must follow the directions very carefully to get accurate readings, though. The ReliOn BP300W does have a good suite of features, including pulse readout, irregular heartbeat detection and advanced averaging. It also stores 90 readings for a single user account and has a one-year warranty, although many recent user reviewers wish it came with a storage case.
Omron also offers a basic wrist model, the Omron BP629 (Est. $50). It doesn't have the advanced guidance system either, but it can calculate the average of your last three recent readings (taken within 10 minutes), and most users say it's quick, accurate and easy to use. The BP629 stores up to 60 date- and time-stamped readings for a single user and is covered by a two-year warranty.
All three wrist blood pressure monitors come with one-size-fits-most cuffs that accommodate a wrist circumference of 5.25 to 8.5 inches (13 to 21 cm), feature one-touch operation, run off two AAA batteries (included), and come with a storage case for easy blood pressure readings on the road, although some users say they never received the promised storage case for the ReliOn BP300W.
Given all these similarities, the Omron BP652N and its advanced positioning sensor is hard to beat. Its latex-free cuff and monitor also make it the best choice for those with latex allergies. But if you feel that simple is best -- or if you can only find the BP652 at its full retail price of $80 -- the ReliOn BP300W and Omron BP629 are both viable runners up.
There's just one thing all three aforementioned wrist blood pressure monitors can't do: Speak your results. For those who have limited vision or can simply make better sense of what they hear (instead of having to read it), the Simple Diagnostics Talking Wrist BP Monitor (Est. $30) will read your results off to you in either English or Spanish.
As usual, it's challenging to get the Simple Diagnostics Clever Choice Talking Wrist BP Monitor into just the right position, and it doesn't have advanced sensors to guide you -- but its ability to speak your results will be indispensable to some users, and those who do figure out the positioning say this monitor is both comfortable and easy to use.
The Simple Diagnostics Talking Wrist BP Monitor operates with just two large, illuminated buttons (again, easy to use for those with limited sight), has two user accounts that store up to 60 readings apiece, and detects irregular heartbeats. It accommodates a wrist that's just slightly smaller than the aforementioned monitors -- 5.5 to 7.625 inches (14 to 19.5 cm) in circumference -- and is backed by a limited two-year warranty. You'll need to provide two AAA batteries for power.
Do you plan to travel with your blood pressure monitor? If so, choose one that comes with a carrying case or pouch, and that can be operated with either battery power or an AC adapter.
Is more than one person going to use the cuff? If so, you must either purchase a monitor with multiple user accounts -- so you can each store your readings separately -- or buy one that doesn't automatically store readings, so you don't end up with your blood pressure logs mingled together.
Are you and your doctor wired in? A growing number of blood pressure monitors allow you to upload your log of readings directly to your doctor. If neither you nor your doctor make use of such capability, you can save some money by buying a simpler unit.
Experts recommend taking your home blood pressure monitor to your healthcare provider when you first buy it, so your healthcare provider can test the monitor against medical-standard equipment to determine its accuracy. Take your blood pressure cuff back in every six months to re-check its accuracy, and have it checked immediately if you drop it or if your readings suddenly change dramatically.
Blood pressure cuffs that transmit data directly to an app on your smart phone are becoming increasingly common. Just a few short years ago this was novel, new technology, but it's now on the verge of becoming a standard feature on high-end blood pressure cuffs, and, as with most wireless technology, will probably soon be the norm at all price points.
Researchers in the Consumer Reports laboratory test two dozen home blood pressure monitors, including both arm and wrist models. Each model receives ratings for convenience and comfort along with a few very brief comments on its performance, plus an overall comparative rating out of 100.
Testers at Popular Mechanics subject 10 cordless drills, all with lithium-ion batteries, to a triathlon test designed to measure real-world performance. They start by boring 24 holes with a 1-inch spade bit, then drive 12 2-inch lag screws into pilot holes in a pressure-treated beam, and finish by driving 3-inch screws until the battery gives out. Berendsohn's write-up gives pros and cons for each drill, based on performance, features, and ease of use.
The author subjects four blood pressure monitors to hands-on testing. Although he doesn't assign comparative scores, he does discuss the relative merits and quirks of each monitor, discusses how easy (or difficult) it was to use them for the first time, and occasionally quotes company stands on specific features.
Pro Tool Reviews subjects eleven 18-volt cordless impact drivers to a series of tests. Testers measure performance by driving a series of different types of screws into plywood. They also try to get a measure of reliability by measuring the heat each tool builds up during testing. Ergonomics and value are also assessed, and tools are ranked both overall and on performance alone. You can also find numerous other single-tool reviews and multi-tool roundup at this site.
Popular Mechanics turns its attention to 20-volt electric drill drivers. Testers bored 1-inch holes in Douglas fir 2-by-8s and drove 3-inch lag screws into pine 4-by-4s, then left all the drills in an unheated garage for several days and checked their performance again. Each drill gets a star rating and a summary of likes and dislikes. Roy Berendsohn says all six of the test drills "met or exceeded our expectations for performance and value."
User reviews at Walgreens.com tend to be brief and to the point, which makes them useful for gauging overall customer reaction to any given product. Most blood pressure monitors for sale here get at least a few user reviews; we chose standout models that receive an average score of 4 stars or better after at least half a dozen user comments.