If you're thinking about buying a blood pressure monitor, here's what to consider.
Some people like to monitor their own blood pressure because it gives them a sense of control over their treatment for high blood pressure. It can also be a good motivator if you're trying to lower your blood pressure by changing your lifestyle.
Your doctor may recommend home monitoring to assess changes in your medication. It's important you take a range of readings over several months and interpret the results with your doctor.
Some people become so anxious when they visit the doctor, their blood pressure shoots up. This is called "white coat hypertension" and it affects about 1 in 5 people. Home monitoring can help identify these people and eliminate unnecessary treatment.
Features to consider
- The cuff can be an arm or wrist type. Our test found that the wrist monitor was as accurate as most of the arm models. Following the instructions on the placement of the cuff is important. It must fit snugly – too tight will give you a higher reading and too loose may not give you one at all.
- Irregular heart beat display indicates that the heart rate is not steady.
- Hypertension indicator warns when your blood pressure is too high – time to see your doctor.
- Mains-power adaptor can be handy if you run out of spare batteries.
- Data storage (also called memory) allows you to flick back through your previous readings. Monitors with double (“2x”) capacity can record readings for two people.
- Get the shop to demonstrate the monitor before you buy.
- If you're buying an arm monitor, make sure the cuff is the correct size for your arm. A cuff that's too narrow may overestimate your blood pressure and a cuff that's too wide may underestimate blood pressure.
- Make sure the buttons and displays are easy to see and read.
- When you first get your monitor take it to your doctor to have its accuracy checked and your technique. Repeat this every 6 months or so. Also get the monitor checked if you drop it or if readings change suddenly.
- Read the instruction manual first to familiarise yourself with the monitor and recalibrate according to the manufacturer's instructions.
Using your monitor
- Don't test your blood pressure within 30 minutes of eating, drinking caffeinated drinks, or exercising.
- Relax for a few minutes before testing.
- Remove any jewellery or clothing that interferes with the cuff.
- For arm monitors, rest your arm on a waist-high table. For wrist monitors, keep your wrist level with your heart. It's important to use the same arm position each time you check your blood pressure. If you are seated keep both feet on the floor.
- Take 2 readings, about 1 to 2 minutes apart. If results differ by more than 5 points take a third reading and record an average of the results.
- Keep a record of all results and discuss these with your doctor.
Home monitors are not a substitute for the regular measurement of blood pressure by your doctor. Don't change your medication based on home readings – check with your doctor first. And talk to your doctor about the most appropriate monitoring regime.
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