What the best blood pressure monitor has
- Keys that are easy to use, and a display that's easy to read. Some
models offer extra-large displays, illuminated buttons and voice-announced
readings. Home blood pressure monitors with Bluetooth capability also give you
the option of reading your results off your smartphone's screen, or having it
read the results to you.
- Circuitry that detects -- and compensates for -- an irregular
heartbeat. Some blood pressure cuffs will alert you to an irregular heartbeat;
a few can also compensate so the irregularity doesn't skew your blood pressure
- A cuff that fits you. If the cuff on your blood pressure monitor
doesn't fit your arm or wrist, it can't give accurate readings. Some blood
pressure monitors let you change the cuffs out, so you can use the same monitor
on people of different sizes.
- The right amount of pressure. There's no getting around a brief squeeze
from the cuff of your blood pressure monitor, but the best models use
relatively gentle pressure to avoid turning a simple reading into a painful
- Ample memory. The best blood pressure monitors store at least 90
readings in memory -- enough to log three months of daily blood pressure
- Multiple user accounts. If several people are using the same blood
pressure monitor, they each need their own account for logging readings and
calculating averages. Some also use this feature to log readings for their
right arm and left arm separately.
- Helpful feedback. Some blood pressure cuffs use color-coded results or
flashing numbers to indicate whether your readings fall into healthy,
borderline, or unhealthy ranges. This makes it easier to put your blood
pressure into context at a glance.
- An averaging function. Experts say that averaging consecutive readings
-- or averaging your blood pressures as logged over a period of time -- can
give you a better picture of your cardiovascular health than single, isolated
- Help with proper positioning. Wrist blood pressure monitors only return
accurate readings if you hold them in just the right position, and learning to
do that can be a challenge. The best wrist monitors use flashing lights or
other feedback devices to help guide your hand into the proper position.
Know before you go
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
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.
Useful tips for owning a blood pressure monitor
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.
What's to come
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.