Blood Pressure Monitors for the Home
Physicians agree that daily self-monitoring of blood pressure is an important step individuals can take to maintain cardiovascular health and prevent the serious consequences associated with undetected and untreated hypertension. The traditional way of measuring blood pressure at home is by using a aneroid sphygmomanometer cuff and stethoscope. These devices show the pressure on a dial, and are usually accurate, but require a certain degree of dexterity and training.
Today there are a wide variety of blood pressure monitors available to the public for the purpose of self-management. The most popular is the digital device that displays the systolic and the diastolic pressure on a digital screen. The digital blood pressure monitoring device is good for hearing-impaired patients, since there is no need to listen to heart sounds through the stethoscope. Many of these devices offer charts used to keep an accurate record of blood pressure readings that are eventually shared with a physician.
Blood pressure monitors are most commonly found in the following formats.
- Automatic blood pressure monitors
- Easy to use, accurate and digitally display full measurement readouts. The technology is based on the “oscillometric method” – a non-invasive blood pressure determination. The term “oscillation” refers to the measure of vibrations caused by the arterial pulse. The cuff is first inflated until the artery is fully blocked. Then the monitor takes measurements while the cuff deflates. Blood Pressure monitors examing the pulsatile pressure generated by the arterial wall as it expands and contracts against the cuff with each heartbeat.
- Manual blood pressure monitors
- While it is necessary to inflate the cuff manually prior to taking a reading, the reading of the blood pressure is automated. This eliminates the need for a stethoscope and provides you with a digital readout of blood pressure (systolic and diastolic) and pulse readings.
- Wrist blood pressure monitors
- Compact and convenient models that allow you to take your blood pressure quickly with very good accuracy. Ease-of-use has made these monitors the fastest growing segment of the blood pressure monitor market. Since there’s no need to remove a jacket or sweater, they can be much quicker than upper arm models. They also have the advantage that the same cuff size can be used in heavy and thin people, because the diameter of the wrist is affected little by obesity, in comparison with the upper arm.
- Many home blood pressure monitors will store your readings for comparison purposes. Once a reading has been taken, the user can choose whether to store the reading into the memory. While some monitors only store the last reading, many monitors today will hold up to thirty while a select few can actually store 350 measurements!
- Using the correct size cuff is important for an accurate reading. A cuff that is too large will produce a reading that is lower than the correct blood pressure; a cuff that is too small yields a measurement that is higher. With your arm hanging at the side of your body, measure the circumference of your upper arm at the midpoint between the shoulder and elbow.
- When looking at the accuracy of the blood pressure monitor, the pressure variation should be no more than ±3 mmHg or 2%, whichever is greater. With today’s technology, this accuracy is standard in most home models.
- While most home blood pressure monitors require batteries to operate, many allow you to supply power from an outlet in your home through an AC adapter jack. Not all monitors are sold with the adapter. However, a standard AC adapter will work. The standard battery size is AA and is often included with the monitor.
- Some electronic monitors have a paper printout that gives you a record of the blood pressure reading. This feature is especially nice for those who choose not to take the time to record their individual readings on a chart. And for those technically driven, there is also a blood pressure monitor available that hooks up to your PC. The accompanying software allows for communication interface and provides trending and analysis capabilities.
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