If you're thinking about buying a blood pressure monitor, here's what to consider.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is often called the “silent killer” – it affects at least one in five adults but many people don’t know they have it. If your blood pressure stays high for a long time it can greatly increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Some people like to monitor their blood pressure because it gives them a sense of control over their treatment. It can also be a good motivator if you’re trying to lower your blood pressure by making lifestyle changes.
Your doctor may recommend home monitoring to assess changes in your medication. Some people become so anxious visiting the doctor that their blood pressure shoots up. Home monitoring can help identify this “white coat hypertension” and eliminate unnecessary treatment.
It’s important you interpret the results from your monitor with your doctor.
What to look for
- 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.
- The buttons and display should be easy to read.
- Ask 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.
- When you first get your monitor take it to your doctor to have its accuracy (and your technique) checked. Repeat this every six 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 how to recalibrate it.
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