Professional blood pressure cuffs aren't meant to be operated on your own arm -- you'd need another set of hands, and often an extra pair of eyes, to do so. They are, however, the gold standard of accuracy that every home blood pressure monitor strives to match.
Of the upper-arm blood pressure monitors we evaluated, three were the most consistently accurate: The LifeSource UA-767 (Est. $50) , the Panasonic EW3109W (Est. $60) and the Omron 10 Series BP785 (Est. $80) .
The very best-reviewed of all -- with the best mix of accuracy and advanced features -- is the Omron 10 Series BP785. It comes with excellent accuracy ratings from owners and experts, plus a plethora of useful features, including 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 BP785 also offers advanced averaging. This is useful because your blood pressure naturally fluctuates over time, which is why the single, isolated reading taken during a doctor's visit isn't necessarily the best indicator of your overall health. The average of several readings taken over time can give you a better idea of your actual blood pressure.
If there's any disadvantage to having so many features in a blood pressure monitor, it's the learning curve -- users say reading the manual before you use the BP785 is a must, as is carefully following its instructions to get accurate readings. A few also say they're frustrated by error messages that can take several minutes to clear. Finally, they note that although the cuff will flash an "okay" sign to let you know you've got it positioned correctly, it still takes a reading when set incorrectly. If you're not paying close attention, this could cause some confusion.
The BP785's ComFit cuff spans the range of a medium (or standard) to large cuff, fitting arms from 9 inches to 17 inches (23 cm to 43 cm) in diameter. Some say they struggle to get the semi-rigid cuff adjusted just right, but that once you've got it set up, you can slip your arm in and out of the uninflated cuff without making further adjustments. The BP785 is covered by a five-year warranty and doesn't have any notable durability issues.
The only feature the Omron BP785 lacks is a USB port for downloading stored data to your computer -- but you can get that in the Omron 10 Series Plus BP791IT (Est. $80) , which is compatible with Microsoft HealthVault and Omron's Health Management Software. Aside from the data-transfer USB port, the BP791IT is identical to the BP785.
Another high-end option is the LifeSource UA-787EJ (*Est. $80) . Although many users and experts like how easy it is to put on the Easy-Fit cuff -- which, like Omron's ComFit cuff, is semi-rigid and accommodates arms from 9 inches to 17 inches (23 cm to 43 cm) in circumference -- it doesn't fit everybody.
The UA-787 packs most of the same advanced features you'll find in the Omron BP785, and even comes with three programmable alarms to remind you to take your blood pressure. But it receives a lower score for accuracy in one expert test and seems to draw more user complaints about inaccurate readings, too.
If you want a simpler blood pressure monitor, there are a few viable alternatives that still offer accurate readings without the steep learning curve.
The well-reviewed LifeSource UA-767 (Est. $50) doesn't offer the same wide range of adjustability in a single cuff as the Omron BP785 does. Instead, an identical readout and gauge system is paired with three cuff sizes: small, 6.3 to 9.4 inches; medium, 9.4 to 14.2 inches; large, 14.2 to 17.7 inches.
If you're bewildered by the variety of model numbers for the UA-767, just remember that they each designate a different size of cuff. For example, the UA-767PV comes with a medium cuff, while the UA-767PVL comes with a large cuff. An "AC" designation indicates that the optional AC adapter is included; otherwise, any of the UA-767 models can also run off four AA batteries.
Figuring out the cuff size may be the hardest part of using these LifeSource monitors; we found some complaints that online retailers don't give the correct range of arm sizes any given cuff can accommodate, so always double-check the size range on the LifeSource website before ordering.
The UA-767 gets an Excellent accuracy rating from one expert source, and users say it doesn't squeeze as tight as some other upper-arm models. They also say it's quick and easy to set up and use. However, both the British Hypertension Society and dabl Educational Trust warn that this monitor tends to be inaccurate at higher blood pressures.
The LifeSource UA-767's modest features include irregular heartbeat detection, storing up to 90 blood pressure readings, and calculating the average of those stored readings. Owners say the display is large and easy to read, although some wish the blood pressure reading was displayed on-screen a little longer.
This blood pressure cuff has an excellent track record for durability, with some users saying they've had theirs for three, five, or even 10-plus years with no problems -- and better yet it's backed by a lifetime warranty, beating out even the Omron BP785's five-year coverage.
The highly rated Panasonic EW3109W (Est. $60) receives an Excellent rating for its accuracy, confirmed by quite a few happy users. Said users are even happier, 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 with the default cuff; you can also buy a large cuff (Est. $30) that fits arms of 13.75 to 17.25 inches in circumference. It's covered by a two-year warranty and runs off four AA batteries (included) or an optional AC adapter, which can be purchased separately.
Another top budget pick, the ReliOn BP200 (Est. $40) upper-arm monitor, sold exclusively through Walmart, can store up to 30 readings in each of two user accounts. Owners say this blood pressure cuff is easy to use straight out of the box, and it receives an excellent accuracy rating from a leading consumer organization. There are a few unusual concerns about its durability, though, an issue we also noticed with the ReliOn BP300W wrist monitor.
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're concerned about durability, the LifeSource UA-767 has the best track record, with a number of users reporting that they've had their monitor for three to 10 years -- and sometimes longer. And if you want the general all-around best-performing, feature-rich monitor, go for the Omron 10 Series BP785 -- but be prepared to spend some quality time with its owner's manual.