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Do Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors Work?

Updated on August 17, 2014
Omron HEM-629 BP Monitor
Omron HEM-629 BP Monitor

Handy Health Gadget Gets Closer Look

The advent of home remedies and DIY medical treatments has led to many of us taking as many health matters into our own hands as possible. One home medical device that has been gaining popularity these days is the wrist blood pressure monitor. In this article, we'll look at its effectiveness as a medical aid and what else you should know about measuring your blood pressure.

Do wrist blood pressure monitors actually work?


First, Learning the Medical Terms

(Detailed information can be found here)

• Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the artery.

• Hypotension means low blood pressure.

• Hypertension means high blood pressure.

• The Brachial artery is the blood vessel that goes from your shoulder to just below your elbow. This pressure is what you measure.

• Systolic pressure is the highest pressure in an artery when the heart is pumping blood to the body.

• Diastolic pressure is the lowest pressure in an artery when your heart is at rest.

• Blood pressure measurement is comprised of both the systolic and the diastolic pressure. It is typically written this way: 120/80, with the systolic (top) number first, the diastolic second.

What Is Normal Home Blood Pressure?

For healthy adults, an ideal blood pressure would be (systolic) range 90-119 over (diastolic) range 60-79. The lower of these respective range is typical for children and athletes. Generally 150 and above over 95 and above (150/95) is the range where medication and/or other medical intervention is prescribed.

It is notable that, for the majority of hypertensive patients, home blood pressures are consistently lower than that measured in the clinic. Several recent studies have addressed the question home pressure readings that best correspond with a normal 'clinic' pressure of 140/90. Note, this is mainly the case for hypertensive patients.

Some studies have concluded that wrist and finger devices do not measure blood pressure very accurately. These devices may be particularly sensitive to body temperature and position, and can also be more expensive than other monitors.

However, wrist blood pressure monitors can be accurate when and if used exactly as directed. Nevertheless, according to the American Heart Association, it's best to use a home blood pressure monitor that measures blood pressure in the upper arm. Upper arm devices are also easier to check for accuracy than are wrist monitors.


Careful--Measurements Can Vary

As mentioned above,wrist blood pressure monitors are quite reactive to body position. To get a reliable reading when taking your blood pressure with a wrist monitor, your wrist and arm must be at heart level. Still , it's believed that because of differences in the width of the arteries in your forearm, and the depth of arteries are under your skin, blood pressure measurements taken at the wrist are typically higher and significantly less accurate than those captured at the upper arm.

It's not unusual for blood pressure readings taken at home on any sort of monitor to vary from those taken at the doctor's office. For those who have a wrist blood pressure monitor, it's wise to take your monitor with you to the doctor's office.

Your physician may then examine your blood pressure with both a standard upper arm monitor along with a wrist monitor in the correct position in the same arm to evaluate the accuracy of your wrist device.

Home- or self-monitoring has several advantages over ambulatory (outpatient) monitoring, the most important of which can be price. Home monitoring is also a convenient way to monitor blood pressure over extended periods of time. Some studies even show that it motivates patients to monitor their health in general more closely.

However, the widespread use of home-monitoring is not yet a reality in most countries. Nonetheless, two important technological developments, inexpensive monitors with memory and systems for sending readings over Internet and telephone, could potentially lead to more widespread use of the devices.

It is recommended not to take measurements just after exercising, drinking or engaging in any activity that could likely have an effect on blood pressure readings. You should also be seated comfortably for 4 to 5 minutes with your upper arm at heart level.

You should take three readings in succession, with at least a 1-minute break in between. The first is normally the highest, and the average is regarded as the blood pressure reading. It is best to get your readings in the early morning and the evening.

Closing Thoughts

As more of us take advantage of the growing availability of powerful gadgets for fitness and health, as well as online information, we should be careful not to overestimate our ability to self-diagnose, or simply replace the expertise of a qualified medical technician. Be sure to research carefully before investing in any equipment and develop a keen understanding of its limitations as well as its features.

Finally, for those who demand a more full-featured, flexible and higher end product, it's recommended to look for something that contains sizing variations (for children and adults, for example), memory or statistical features, so that you can keep track of changes in your blood pressure without having to keep these records elsewhere, as well as other features that bring detailed medical measurement statistics to you quickly and easily.

Be warned that better features and flexibility obviously costs a bit more. Nevertheless, they often rival the devices found in clinics, ambulances and hospitals, without necessitating you go to medical school to get a detailed blood pressure measurement for you or your loved ones.

Moreover, the ability to transfer measurement data or sync with your computer is an increasingly useful feature, and the top line devices have this included as standard.

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