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What to Look for in a Home Blood Pressure Monitor

  • Category: In The News
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  • Written By: Jherie D. Ducombs, MD
What to Look for in a Home Blood Pressure Monitor

More than 100 million U.S. adults have high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is the leading cause of death and disability, both in the United States and worldwide. But, it doesn't have to be. There's a lot you can do about it, but you have to know your numbers.

Studies have shown that home blood pressure monitoring can help you stick to a treatment plan and improve your outcome.

Although it's fairly easy to take your blood pressure at home, there is a lot of room for error. It's like any other data analysis - if you put garbage in, you'll get garbage out. And that's not acceptable when it comes to your health. You'll want to make sure you're doing it right and using a reliable monitor.

Here's what to look for in a blood pressure monitor.

1. Clinical validation. Until recently, it's been hard for physicians to recommend a particular device or model because of a lack of data. The Food and Drug Administration doesn't approve blood pressure monitors for patient use. Instead, they clear devices to be sold based on something called "substantial equivalence" - meaning they have been demonstrated to be approximately as safe and effective as other devices on the market, based on data that is self-reported.

As a result, the American Medical Association partnered with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago to validate commercially available devices by an independent review panel. This review panel recently released the first listing of devices that meet their criteria for clinical accuracy. The list is expected to grow as the group has time to validate more devices. Here are some of their recommendations:

  • Omron 10 Series Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor

  • Omron Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor, 3 Series

  • Omron 5 Series Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor

  • Omron Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor, 7 Series

  • LifeSource Manual Inflation Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor with Automatic Digital Reading, Medium Cuff (UA-705V)

  • Omron Bronze Blood Pressure Monitor, Upper Arm Cuff, Digital Blood Pressure Machine, Stores Up To 14 Readings

  • Omron Platinum Blood Pressure Monitor, Premium Upper Arm Cuff, Digital Bluetooth Blood Pressure Machine, Stores Up To 200 Readings for Two Users (100 Readings Each)

  • Omron Silver Blood Pressure Monitor, Upper Arm Cuff, Digital Bluetooth Blood Pressure Machine, Stores Up To 80 Readings

  • A&D Medical Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor with Medium Cuff and Talking Function (UA-1030T)

2. Correct cuff size. Wrong cuff size can lead to error, usually causing a reading that is too high if the cuff is too small. The cuff should fit snugly around your arm, but it shouldn't be tight. Use a tape measure to determine the circumference around your upper arm halfway between your shoulder and elbow, and then choose the appropriate cuff size from the table below.

3. Upper arm type. Wrist cuffs, finger monitors and smartphone apps for blood pressure measurement haven't been adequately validated yet. An exception might be a wrist cuff for someone with an extra large arm who does not achieve proper fit with available cuffs.

4. Budget. A good blood pressure cuff doesn't need to break the bank. You might want to ask your insurance company if it will cover the cost of the monitor or if you can use your flexible spending account to pay for it. All you really need to track your blood pressure are a validated monitor with upper arm cuff, a pen and a piece of paper. But if you're into gadgets like I am, below are some nice extras.

5. Bells and Whistles

  • If you have trouble reading small print, by all means, look for a monitor with a large display or one which will read your blood pressure aloud to you.

  • If there's more than one person in your household who needs their blood pressure checked, look for one that will store readings for multiple users.

  • If you forget to buy batteries, which I am guilty of, buy one that is rechargeable.

  • And if you're a techie like I am, look for one that will wirelessly connect to your smartphone to help you keep up with your measurements in a paperless fashion. There's extra credit for those of you who can figure out how to send them electronically to your doctor.

So there you have it. Clinical validation and correct cuff size are really the most important features. Regardless of which device you choose, bring it with you to your next appointment and have it checked against an in-office measurement. I think it's a good idea to do this initially and at least once a year as devices can lose calibration. Remember garbage in = garbage out.

Dr. Jherie Ducombs is a cardiologist with North Oaks Cardiology and serves as vice president/assistant chief medical officer at North Oaks Health System.