Is Your Home Blood Pressure Monitor Reliable?
Betty Chaffee, PharmD, is owner and sole proprietor of BetterMyMeds, a Medication Management service devoted to helping people get the maximum benefit from their medications.
Nearly half of adults in the United States have high blood pressure. Many monitor their blood pressure at home. If you use a home blood pressure (HBP) monitor, you're already doing a great job taking care of your health. But are you sure your monitor is giving you reliable results? It's important to care for your monitor, too. They don't last forever. Inaccurate results can cause you to worry needlessly, or keep you feeling content when you should be concerned. I was recently reminded of this by a patient (thank you!). So let's talk about how to make sure you're getting reliable results from your HBP monitor.
Before we go there, though, a quick but important point. If you have high blood pressure and you're not checking it in between doctor visits, talk with your doctor. Many experts believe that HBP monitoring is an important part of treating high blood pressure.
Home Blood Pressure Monitors
There are lots of HBP monitors to choose from And many are both easy to use and affordable. Most are validated for accuracy and precision prior to marketing. If you're thinking of purchasing one soon, be sure to purchase a monitor with a cuff that goes around your upper arm rather than one that goes around your wrist. The results are much more accurate.
And remember, the cuff size matters. Using too large or small a cuff can result in inaccurate readings. The size is based on your arm measurement. Most BP cuffs have the size printed right on the cuff, so it's pretty easy to find. Many HBP monitors offer more than one size cuff, either with the original purchase or as an accessory. Keep in mind, too, that your arm size might change over the years, so check the cuff size periodically. Have you been trying to lose weight? Your arm might get smaller. Trying to lose but gaining instead? Your arm might get larger. Take a look at the cuff you're using to be sure it's the right size for you.
As soon as possible after you purchase it, check the monitor for accuracy.. Take it to your pharmacy or doctor's office. First, use your monitor to measure your blood pressure, then have them use their equipment to do the same. You may need to take more than one reading with each set of equipment at 30 second intervals to be sure results are comparable. This procedure allows your healthcare professional to 1) make sure you're using your equipment correctly and 2) assess the accuracy of your monitor's results. Differences of a few points are typical and okay, but if the numbers are quite different, or if your monitor gives inconsistent results, you may need to contact the manufacturer.