No, it’s not just hypochondriacs and really, really old people who have blood pressure monitors at home.
There are actually a number of important reasons to have one of these invaluable pieces of equipment in your house, instead of relying on your doctor or nurse to wrap the cuff around your upper arm and take the measurement once a year.
There are specific (and large) groups of people who should be checking their blood pressure on their own. It’s crucial that the nearly one-third of Americans who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) or prehypertension (slight but persistent elevated pressure levels) keep regular tabs on their readings, particularly they’re when on medication. That’s not just their doctors’ opinion, but the recommendation of the American Heart Association. And if you’re regularly under a lot of stress in your life, discovering that you have high blood pressure a year (or more) before your doctor catches it could literally be a life saver.
It’s not only stress that can make you a prime candidate for regular at-home monitoring. Those with high-risk factors like obesity or smoking may want to keep tabs on their blood pressure, some pregnant women with pregnancy-induced hypertension could be at risk for preeclampsia that could endanger their baby, and the elderly also may require greater health monitoring which would include their blood pressure.
Only an unusual person would be able to wrap a cuff around their arm, inflate it and listen to a stethoscope to count heartbeats while slowly releasing air from the cuff. That’s why electronic blood pressure monitors are the only real choice, and you don’t need a prescription to buy one.
Types of Blood Pressure Monitors
You’ll find two different types of monitors available for home use.
1) One is similar to the automated machines that many hospitals and some doctor’s offices now use; they have a cuff that is fastened around the upper arm and then inflates and deflates automatically, then giving you a readout of the blood pressure measured.
2) The other type works in the same fashion but is wrapped around the wrist, helpful for those who are obese, have arms which get sore easily (or presumably, are bodybuilders).
However, it’s much more difficult to get an accurate blood pressure reading from a wrist cuff, because arteries near the hand are smaller and closer to the skin. To get results approximating those you’d get from an arm cuff it’s crucial to keep your arm and wrist completely level while holding them at chest level. Otherwise, the monitor will give you a reading that’s higher than it should be. For most people, an arm cuff is vastly preferable.
Best Blood Pressure Monitors: What to Look For
A monitor isn’t going to do you any good if the cuff doesn’t fit your arm, so that’s the first thing to check. The majority of blood pressure cuffs are designed to accommodate arms with a circumference between nine and 13 inches, but that’s the wrong size for about one-third of women and half of all men. Cuffs that can handle larger and smaller arms, or a package with several differently-sized cuffs, are a plus for any monitor, particularly if it’s used by several people in a household.
It’s probably obvious that no model would make Your House Garden’s list of the top 5 best blood pressure monitors if it’s not accurate. That doesn’t mean that it will exactly match the readings your doctor gets in his office, because most home machines aren’t quite as accurate as professional ones. Additionally, a number of patients have what’s called “white coat hypertension” which means their nerves kick in and their blood pressure spikes when seeing the doctor. So don’t be alarmed if your home machine gives you numbers that look a bit odd as long as they’re consistent; if they vary considerably when you measure them yourself, though, that’s greater cause for concern.
Multiple Readings and Connectivity
The best monitors do a lot more than the huge machines in a drugstore that test your blood pressure. Many good home units have enough memory to track your results over time for reference or to send to your doctor, with some able to save readings for multiple users. Others can take multiple readings over a short time to create a more accurate average, show or sound an alarm for irregular heartbeats, automatically shut off if the cuff overinflates, or link to smartphone apps for further analysis in conjunction with personal risk factors.
Easy to Use
Finally, you’ll want a blood pressure monitor that’s easy to use, with a comfortable cuff easy to get on-and-off of your arm, with an easily-readable display. Most models qualify in those categories without a problem.
These monitors aren’t overly expensive, but every dollar helps – so be sure to check with your insurance company to see if the purchase is covered. You might be surprised.
Thankfully, none of the review team currently needs a home monitor for medical purposes. But that didn’t stop us from ranking the top five.
1. Omron 10 Series BP786 Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor
This top-level Omron monitor (they also offer the 3, 5 and 7 series) checks off all the boxes. It’s the most comfortable and accurate home blood pressure machine on the market, with a wealth of features that make it invaluable for those who require regular monitoring.
Professional testing shows that the Omron 10 falls nicely within the variance range that’s acceptable for home units and the cuff provides a somewhat stiff but well-padded and comfortable fit unless you have a very thick arm and need a larger cuff (Omron makes one, but it’s not included with your purchase).
You probably won’t need a different cuff, though, since the standard Omron one fits arms up to 17 inches in circumference, well above average. Assembling and putting on the cuff is simple, and the default setting takes three readings within three minutes so you can receive an accurate average.
You don’t need to connect to another device to use the Omron 10, but it’s helpful. Bluetooth capability lets you pair with most Android or iOS devices to chart your readings and display them in graph form on the Omron app, and email them to your doctor if you’d like.
You can use this unit without the app, however; it has enough memory to save 200 readings (and can also record data for two different users), the back-lit display is easy to read, an alarm goes off if the reading is compromised because you moved during the test, and there are color-coded “normal” and “high” indicators plus a bar indicator that compares your readings to the average user’s.
The Omron 10 runs on either AC power or four AA batteries, is small and convenient, and a pleasure to use.
This isn’t the cheapest home blood pressure monitor on the market but it’s reasonably-priced for all it does, and its accuracy and comfort are both first rate. The Your House Garden team highly recommends it.
Facts and figures on the Omron 10 Series Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor:
2. Withings Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor
If you’re a fully-wireless type of person you’ll appreciate the Withings monitor, because it doesn’t have its own display connected to the machine. It’s just a cuff that goes around your arm and transmits directly via Bluetooth or micro-USB cable to your phone or tablet (most Androids and iOS devices are compatible, as is the Apple Watch).
There you can read the results, have them analyzed by the free Withings app and stored in the cloud. The lack of a separate display makes this model the most convenient for transport – and also one of the most expensive of the monitors in the Your House Garden rankings.
The Withings cuff is comfortable and fits arms between 9 and 17 inches in circumference, and while the monitor isn’t quite as accurate as the Omron 10 it’s still well within acceptable limits. The app will show you the results (which can be emailed to your doctor), colored indicators for “normal” and “high,” detailed charts and health recommendations. The unit operates on four AAA batteries.
As long as you don’t mind (or if you prefer) relying on your phone, this is a very good blood pressure monitor. The one downside to the Withings is that the software is still constantly being updated to correct glitches, but for the long run, this is a lightweight, portable and effective monitor, albeit at a pretty high price.
More info for the Withings Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor:
3. LifeSource Blood Pressure Monitor with Extra Large Cuff
At a price comparable to the Withings, there’s one distinct advantage to this LifeSource monitor which could justify spending the extra money: the cuff is designed for very large upper arms, fitting those from 16.5 to 23.5 inches in circumference. It’s not quite as good as the first two units on our list of the top 5 best blood pressure monitors, but #3 is actually the best if #1 and #2 won’t fit you.
Accuracy is well within acceptable levels, you can store as many as sixty readings, and the latex band is comfortable for those who are used to painfully tight fits from smaller cuffs. (You can also buy smaller cuffs separately if more than one person will be using the monitor.)
There is no Bluetooth/smartphone capability for the LifeSource but the onboard blood pressure and pulse readouts are easy to read, and there are LED indicators for low, normal and high results plus an irregular heartbeat alarm. This model runs on wall power or four AA batteries.
|You’ll pay a premium price for the LifeSource monitor, but you won’t find an extra-large cuff available on very many competitors. As a simple but reliable machine, it’s a good investment for those with large arms.|
Details on the LifeSource Blood Pressure Monitor with Extra Large Cuff:
Those who aren’t suffering from high blood pressure and simply want a machine to check their blood pressure when they’re not feeling well (or just out of curiosity) probably don’t want to spend lots on money on a unit. The LotFancy monitor is just up their alley since it’s usually about half the price of our top-rated model.
The LotFancy is a standalone unit with no option to connect to an outside device. It displays the usual blood pressure and pulse readings on a decent-sized LCD display, can track a total of 120 readings (for as many as four combined users, a great feature), has LED indicators for high/borderline/normal results and includes an irregular heartbeat indicator.
Accuracy is within acceptable limits and the slightly-undersized cuff is comfortable enough for the few minutes it takes to take a reading.
The LotFancy monitor isn’t the best that the review team has checked out, but it’s a very serviceable model at a very impressive price.
Specifications for the LotFancy Blood Pressure Monitor:
5. Omron BP652N 7 Series Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor
We’ve mentioned that wrist monitors aren’t as reliable as models with arm cuffs. This Omron, however, comes close – and it’s why the Your House Garden team recommends it for people who simply can’t use an arm cuff.
It’s priced around the same as the Omron 10 unit that’s #1 on our list and while you’re better off with that choice, the accuracy of the two models is actually fairly close. Just be sure you’re using the wrist version properly; the unit won’t work until your arm is positioned correctly.
You don’t get Bluetooth/smartphone capability with this 7 series blood pressure monitor, but you still get onboard storage for 100 readings, the three-consecutive-readings average function, and the same indicators available on the Omron 10.
The Omron BP625 is the best of the bunch when it comes to wrist blood pressure monitors. If your physical condition requires you to use a wrist cuff, there’s no second choice.
Digging deeper on the Omron BP652N 7 Series Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor:
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