|What Is A Home Blood Pressure Monitor?
It is a small portable device used by people to monitor their blood pressure at home. If you have received a diagnosis of high blood pressure (hypertension) your doctor might ask you to start monitoring your pressure at home. As pressure can vary during the day, this will help determine how well your blood pressure drugs are working at controlling your condition. It also helps eliminate the possibility of a false positive test result known as white coat hypertension (see hypertension diagnosis). It should be noted that self monitoring is never a substitute for a clinical checkup at a doctor’s office. Rather, it complements your treatment by providing more frequent blood pressure readings which can be discussed with your doctor. There are two main types of monitors: digital monitors on the market (by far the most popular) and aneroid monitors.
Who Should Use Home Monitors?
It may be particularly useful for:
• People who have started treatment for high blood pressure - to determine its effectiveness.
• People who require closer monitoring than is possible with periodic doctor visits. For example, people with coronary heart disease, kidney disease or diabetes.
• Pregnant women because preeclampsia and gestational hypertension (pregnancy induced high bp) can develop very rapidly. For more see, hypertension during pregnancy.
• People who cannot get an accurate reading in their doctors office because they become nervous in the surroundings (which can artificially increase their bp reading). This is known as white coat hypertension.
• Patients who doctors suspect of having masked hypertension.
• People with high risk factors for the condition who have been advised by their doctor to make hypertension prevention lifestyle adjustments.
Who Should Not Use Home Monitors?
People who have received an arrhythmia diagnosis, particularly if they have atrial fibrillation. Home monitors are less effective in these patients. Ideally a doctor needs to check their blood pressure with a manual device as well as listen to the blood running through their brachial artery with a stethoscope.
Also called automatic blood pressure monitors, a digital monitor is the most popular type of device because it is the easiest to use. Where possible it is best to choose one that measures your blood pressure at the upper arm, rather than at the finger or wrist. Upper arm monitors are generally more accurate and give consistent results. Most devices include an arm cuff (which can be inflated manually or automatically in more expensive units) and a digital monitor.
How To Use A Digital Monitor
1. Place the cuff around your upper arm and turn on the machine.
2. Push the button to activate the inflation device (or squeeze the hand bulb if you have a manual inflation device).
3. After the cuff has inflated, it will automatically start to deflate.
4. Look at the monitor to see your reading. Both your systolic and diastolic numbers will appear.
5. Press the exhaust button to fully deflate the cuff.
6. Wait 3 or 4 minutes if you want to repeat the reading.
These are more like the devices you are likely to see in your doctor’s office. They consist of a pressure gauge, a cuff, a bulb for inflating the cuff and a stethoscope (although some devices have a built-in stethoscope in the cuff). Aneroid monitors are much more complex to use but on the plus side they are less expensive than digital monitors.
How To Use An Aneroid Monitor
1. Put the stethoscope in your ears.
2. Extend your arm on a table or chair, at about heart level. Place the cuff around your upper arm.
3. Place the stethoscope on the inner side of your elbow crease, over the pulse.
4. Inflate the cuff quickly using the bulb to a reading of 20 or 30 points above your last systolic measurement. You need to inflate fast because a slow inflation will give an inaccurate reading. When you have finished inflating you will no longer hear your pulse because the cuff has stopped blood flow.
5. Deflate the cuff slowly, about 2 or 3 mm Hg's per second. Listen carefully until you hear the blood flow starting again. When you do, check the number on the gauge. That is your systolic bp number.
6. Keep deflating the cuff. When you no longer hear your heart beat, that is your diastolic number.
Tips For Buying A Home Monitor
Only Buy Accredited Units
Check to make sure that the monitor is approved by any of the following: Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, the British Hypertension Society or the International Protocol for the Validation of Automated BP Measuring Devices. A full list of approved monitors in the United States can be found here: www.dableducational.org and in the UK on the Blood Pressure Association website at www.bpassoc.org.uk.
Cuff sizes are made to measure, and the right size is very important to ensure accurate measurements. Your doctor or pharmacy should be able to tell you which size you need. Or if you want to check yourself, measure around your upper arm at the point half way between your elbow and shoulder. According to this measurement:
Small Cuff: 18-22 cm
Medium Cuff: 22-32 cm
Large Cuff: 32-45 cm
If you need an extra-large cuff this can be ordered through your pharmacist. Most standard off-the-shelf units come with a medium size cuff.
Do be sure that the numbers on the monitor are large enough for you to read.
Don't always assume the most expensive is best. You don't really need one that has lots of bells and whistles on it, a basic accredited device should suffice. Expect to pay around $70 or £40. You could spend hundreds of dollars but this really is not necessary.
Once you buy a device take it to your doctor's office and ask them to check it for accuracy. You will also need to read the instructions on how to get it recalibrated periodically.
Check out our article on the causes of high blood pressure.
Although there usually are no symptoms of hypertension, it can cause nosebleeds and other problems in an emergency situation.
Monitors Approved In America
The following is a sample of some of the best devices approved by the dabl Educational Trust:
A and D Instruments UA-704 monitor
Foracare Fora D 40b
iHealth BP3 (KD-931)
Lloyds Pharmacy BP11
Medel Check (92187)
Microlife BP 3AC1-1 PC
The following is a sample of best devices approved by the British Hypertension Society:
BPA/Microlife home blood pressure monitor
A and D Instruments UA-704
A and D Instruments UA-782
Boots Upper Arm (Omron HEM-742-UK)
Citizen CH-432B monitor
Health and Life HL88HA
Honsun LD 578 monitor
Lloyds Pharmacy LBP 1
Microlife - As easy as 123
Omron MX2 Basic monitor
Proton Healthcare 888UP