The best blood pressure monitors are ones that have been tested and validated according to standards set by the British Hypertension Society (BHS), European Society of Hypertension (ESH) or the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). This shows they are clinically accurate and give reliable, trustworthy results.
A wide range of home blood pressure monitors is available. Some monitors measure blood pressure using a cuff on your upper arm, and others with a cuff that fits around the wrist, and some even measure blood pressure around a finger.
Blood pressure monitors: Upper arm monitors versus wrist monitors
Blood pressure monitors that use an upper arm cuff are generally considered the most accurate and reliable, especially when your blood pressure is high and you need to bring it down to normal levels.
Once your blood pressure is within an acceptable range, using a blood pressure monitor that measures blood pressure at the wrist are easier to keep with you for regular use.
Wrist blood pressure monitors measure blood pressure in the radial artery.
As blood is pumped from the larger brachial artery into the smaller diameter of the radial artery and then into the even small blood vessels beyond, the pressure within the arteries increases slightly, so you will get a slightly higher reading in a wrist blood pressure monitor compared to an upper arm blood pressure monitor.
I have both an upper arm blood monitor and a wrist blood pressure monitor – one of each for convenience. I can then check their readings against each other for added reassurance, and don’t have to run around the house (putting my blood pressure up) to find one!
Select an upper arm blood pressure monitor that is fully automated so that you don’t have to pump air into the cuff by hand.
What size blood pressure cuff do you need?
It is important to use the right size of cuff for your upper arm blood pressure monitor or you will get a false blood pressure reading.
When blood pressure was measured in 181 adults aged 25 to 74 years, using a cuff that was too small, the right size or too large. When the blood pressure cuff was one size too big, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were underestimated by 3-5 mmHg in men and 1-3 mmHg in women. When the blood pressure cuff was one size too small, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure were overestimated by 2-6 mm Hg in men and 3-4 mm Hg in women. One in three people were also misclassified into the wrong blood pressure groups used to define hypertension.
To find the right size of blood pressure cuff you need, measure your upper arm, in centimetres, midway between your shoulder and elbow, then check the measurements provided with your chosen monitor. As a general guide:
- If your upper arm measures 18-22 cm, select a small cuff
- If your upper arm measures 22-32 cm, select a medium cuff
- If your upper arm measures 32-45 cm select a large cuff.
Most blood pressure monitors come with a medium-sized cuff and you may have to order a small or large cuff separately.
Some monitors are supplied with different size cuffs included within the box, to make using the correct size easier. This is also helpful when different members of the family are using the monitor and have different sized arms.
Are expensive blood pressure monitors more accurate than cheap blood pressure monitors?
Blood pressure monitors vary tremendously in price, but as long as you select one that is properly validated, the cost does not reflect accuracy. A cheaper, validated blood pressure monitor will give results that are just as accurate as those that are more expensive. The best blood pressure monitors are tested and validated by theri manufacturer according to standards set by the British Hypertension Society (BHS), European Society of Hypertension (ESH) or the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). This shows the blood pressure monitors are clinically accurate and provide results that you can trust.
The more expensive blood pressure monitors tend to be more robust and have additional features such as a built-in memory and pre-programmed alerts. As long as the monitor is properly validated, however, you can feel comfortable buying one according to your budget.
Remember to recalibrate your blood pressure monitor
Check the instructions inside your packaging for details of how to send it back to the manufacturer, and how much this will cost.
When the time comes for your home monitor to be recalibrated, weigh up the cost (and inconvenience) of sending it away against the cost of buying a new monitor.
Prices of blood pressure monitors are always coming down, and technology is improving for greater accuracy. You may find you can buy a new monitor, with extra features, without paying a lot more.