Monitoring BP regularly is an essential part of managing hypertension. It is as vital as taking the medications daily. It helps to monitor the disease progress and the effectiveness of the treatment. Over the long run, it provides valuable information about BP fluctuation and the factors causing it. Home BP monitor is highly accurate and versatile device that everyone diagnosed with hypertension should have.
Consider Your Budget
The first thing to consider when choosing a BP monitor is cost factor. However, it is worth understanding that high cost does not essentially mean a better product. More often, the brand name could be a better indicator of quality. For example, BP devices of certain companies are tested more rigorously and validated in studies.
Cuff Size Matters
According to the American Association of Family Physicians, cuff size is the most vital factor to consider. It has the most significant role in ensuring the accuracy of BP monitors. A smaller cuff may not sufficiently press the brachial artery, thus causing the wrong reading. As per American Heart Association, the cuff size should be about 80% of the arm’s circumference.
Additionally, the width of the cuff also matters. In some low-quality monitors, the cuff may be too narrow, causing reading errors.
Further, it is vital to understand that when the cuff is of the right size, it is far easier to position it accurately, making BP monitor more straightforward to use.
Upper Arm BP Monitor or Wrist BP Monitor
Upper arm BP monitors has been a traditional way of BP monitoring. It means that it is the most reliable way of measuring BP validated by thousands of studies and a century of experience. Nonetheless, this does not make wrist BP monitors inferior.
Wrist BP monitors have some benefits like they are easier to put on and use. Therefore, they are generally preferred due to ease of use. For example, in a small number of cases, like those living with joint disorders or trauma, wearing an upper arm BP monitor may be quite challenging.
Wrist BP monitors are pretty accurate. Nonetheless, they are generally regarded as slightly less precise than the upper arm BP monitors. Generally, readings in the wrist tend to be somewhat higher than in the upper arm. Additionally, when buying wrist BP monitors, it is essential to understand that in a small number of individuals (about 4-5%), they do not work as intended due to the deeper location of the artery. So, yes, wrist BP monitors are a good option, but with certain limitations.
Check for Features
Although a basic BP monitor would work for most, it is always good to have additional features. Moreover, these days, the presence of other features have the minimum impact on the cost of monitors.
One of the common reasons for inaccurate readings in automated BP monitors is the presence of an arrhythmia. Thus, it could be a good idea to look for a BP monitor that can identify an irregular heartbeat. Most BP monitors these days can identify tachycardia (faster heart rate) and bradycardia (slower heart rate), but some can even identify atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation isn’t rare and may severely increase the risk of clot formation.
These days many people have smartwatches. Thus, having a BP monitor with Bluetooth is quite good. Moreover, Bluetooth can help you to register every reading automatically into the various health apps. Record keeping is a vital part of BP management, and yet very few maintain any written record. Thus, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connectivity may resolve that issue.
Another minor thing to consider is how much data a device can store.
Accuracy of a Home BP Monitor
The most commonly available home BP monitors are pretty accurate these days. Moreover, using a manual BP meter may result in a greater error when used by an untrained person. Additionally, automated BP monitors are much easier to use by a single person without the help of others.
Nonetheless, there is nothing like a 100% accurate instrument. Every device has some error rate or accuracy range. In the case of home BP monitors, they have an accuracy of above 90%. It means that they won’t cause an error of more than 10%. However, greater error may occur in individuals prone to arrhythmias.
In one of the most extensive studies to date done in England, a study called “ACCU-RATE study”, researchers tested 331 home BP monitors for accuracy. They found that among them, 251 were highly accurate, which is not a bad indicator. The study also found that BP monitors of companies validated in clinical studies like Omron were almost always accurate.
Consider the Warranty
Last but not least, it is a good idea to pay attention to the duration of the warranty given by the manufacturer of the BP monitor. Though these days BP monitors rarely break, nonetheless, the warranty period always speaks about the quality.
To conclude, a home BP monitor is a must-have device for anyone diagnosed with hypertension. However, before buying a home BP monitor, one should look into a few features. Generally, choosing the cheapest BP monitor is not a good idea (though one does not essentially need to buy the most expensive one). Instead, one should prefer BP monitors validated in studies. These are generally BP monitors of well-known brands.