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.
- 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 the readings.
- 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.
- Ample memory. The best blood
pressure monitors store at least 90 readings in memory -- enough to log three
months of daily blood pressure measurements.
- Helpful feedback. A blood pressure cuff
that shows where you fall in the typical range of healthy (or unhealthy)
readings can help you understand the state of your health.
- 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 measurements.
- Multiple user accounts. This enables two
people to use the blood pressure monitor to record their readings, or one
person can log readings for the right arm and left arm separately.
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 off either battery power or with an AC
- Is your blood pressure
monitor properly calibrated? Experts recommend taking it to your
healthcare provider when you first buy it, then about every six months
thereafter, to be tested against medical-standard equipment. Have the unit
checked immediately if you drop it or if your readings suddenly change
- 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? Some
blood pressure monitors allow you to upload the 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.
What's to come
Blood pressure cuffs that transmit data
directly to an app on your smart phone are becoming increasingly common; the
Withings blood pressure monitor (which docks with your iPod or iPhone) and the
wireless iHealth BP5 are two of the most popular. Two years ago these were
novel, new technology; now they're becoming more established, with all the
data-collecting -- and sharing -- capabilities you'd expect from a smartphone
app and excellent accuracy scores to boot.