Nearly half of adults in the United States are at increased risk of developing a heart attack or stroke due to high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Early detection of hypertension can prevent the development of cardiovascular disease, but many people aren't aware that they have high blood pressure. As a result, more people are turning to at-home devices, such as digital blood pressure monitors, to help them keep track of their blood pressure between doctor's visits.
At-Home Monitors: Are They All the Same?
There are many different types of blood pressure monitors, including digital arm cuff monitors, manual arm cuff monitors, wearable blood pressure watches, and finger monitors. These devices measure your systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure exerted when the heart beats. When you measure your systolic pressure, you are measuring the force of the blood as it moves through the arteries. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure exerted against the artery walls between heartbeats. When you measure your diastolic blood pressure, you are measuring the pressure inside the arteries when the heart is resting.
A manual blood pressure monitor is the device most often used by healthcare professionals. A manual blood pressure monitor, also known as a sphygmomanometer, is comprised of a cuff that inflates with air, a manometer (a gauge) that measures the pressure inside the cuff, and a stethoscope that a healthcare provider uses to listen to the sounds that the blood makes as it flows through the arteries. The rubber cuff wraps around the upper arm just above the elbow, where the brachial artery is located, and inflates with air. A healthcare provider uses a stethoscope to listen to your blood flow while the cuff slowly deflates. The first pumping sound corresponds to your systolic blood pressure. Your diastolic pressure is measured when the pulse disappears and your healthcare provider can no longer detect a sound. Manual blood pressure monitors are the most reliable and accurate devices for measuring blood pressure, if administered correctly. However, they are not recommended for at-home use since training is required for proper use.
Digital Arm Cuff Blood Pressure Monitor
If you want to use an at-home blood pressure monitor between doctor's visits, the American Heart Association recommends digital arm cuff blood pressure monitors. Digital blood pressure monitors are automated, so you can get a blood pressure reading at home without the help of a trained healthcare provider. Like a manual blood pressure monitor, a digital monitor uses an inflatable cuff that wraps around your upper arm and fills with air. After the cuff is fully inflated, it will slowly deflate, and your systolic and diastolic blood pressure will be displayed on the screen. This typically takes about 30 seconds. Digital blood pressure monitors are the most reliable at-home digital blood pressure devices. If you decide to purchase a digital blood pressure monitor for yourself, I recommend finding one from a reputable company. Below are my recommendations.
Omron has been around for 40 years, and its blood pressure monitors are the number one brand recommended by doctors and pharmacists. The Silver Blood Pressure Monitor with an upper arm cuff is one of Omron's top sellers due to its user-friendly features and accuracy. The device can store up to 80 readings per user and has an advanced averaging feature that automatically shows you the average of the last three readings taken within 10 minutes. Omron's Silver Blood Pressure Monitor is registered with the FDA as a medical device and meets the Validated Device Listing ("VDL") criteria for validation of clinical accuracy. This device has a special app for your phone that can store unlimited blood pressure readings, which is helpful if you would like to track your progress over time, and displays an irregular heartbeat symbol that alerts you if an irregular heartbeat is detected during your reading. It's also designed to minimize the impact of your body movements on your results. The list price for this device is $56.
Like the Omron monitor, the iTrack Smart Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor measures your systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and heart rate. It also has a special feature that helps detect irregular heartbeats and an adjustable arm band designed to accommodate medium to large arms. This FDA-cleared device can record and store up to 99 readings, which you can sync with your smartphone or tablet. Many users like that it has a large screen with large font for easy reading and can be easily operated with just two buttons. As a bonus, the large screen displays easy-to-understand graphs to help you interpret your results. At $49.99, this blood pressure monitor is a more affordable option.
What Should You Avoid?
Wearable blood pressure devices, such as watches, are marketed as an easy way to help you monitor your blood pressure at home. However, as a doctor, I caution against relying on wrist or finger monitors because most tend not to produce accurate results. If you want to monitor your blood pressure at home, I encourage you to use an arm cuff device.
Why are these devices less reliable than blood pressure watches? Blood pressure watches are less reliable than arm cuff monitors because the arteries in your wrist are narrow and close to the skin's surface. This can cause your blood pressure readings to be elevated. Wrist blood pressure monitors are also more sensitive to your body's position than arm cuff monitors, and most are not specifically designed to measure blood pressure. Many are just smartwatches that offer an added blood pressure feature which uses a sensor to take your measurements.
However, if you're unable to use an arm-cuff monitor and would like to use a blood pressure watch as an alternative, it's essential that you find the most accurate and reliable blood pressure watch. Check out: Blood Pressure Watches to learn about my recommendations.
An at-home blood pressure monitor is a great way to help you manage your blood pressure. However, it's important to choose an upper arm cuff device from a reputable company. With lifestyle changes, you should see your blood pressure decrease over time. If you're taking steps to lower your blood pressure, I recommend adding a heart health supplement, such as Healthycell's Heart & Vascular Health, to help you achieve your goals. This supplement contains a blend of plant extracts, vitamins and minerals that help maintain normal cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure levels for a healthy heart and vascular system. To learn more, check out: Supplements to Lower Blood Pressure.
About the Author
Dr. Giampapa is a world-renowned medical doctor, inventor, and surgeon specializing in anti-aging medicine. He recently received a nomination for the Nobel Prize for his groundbreaking stem cell research, as well as the Edison Award for the Healthycell nutritional supplement for cell health. He was also awarded the A4M Science & Technology award for his development of the BioMarker Matrix Profile – the first computer program to measure aging.