It's smart to keep an eye on your blood pressure. Nearly one third of Americans suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), and many doctors are now asking their patients to track blood pressure data at home via an automatic monitor.
Each blood pressure monitor on our shortlist is designed to fit the upper arm. Wrist cuff monitors are also available, but the physicians we spoke to advised that wrist monitor readings tend to be less accurate.
It's important to note that these products should be used in consultation with a qualified medical practitioner. Your doctor is the one who can make the most sense of how your readings relate to your personal health.
The data you glean from your blood pressure monitor is vital, and precision is key. To ensure the accuracy of this review, we partnered with Dr. Tamer Fakhouri, a primary care physician for the One Medical Group in San Francisco. Dr. Fakhouri actively explores the use of digital technology in the treatment of hypertension, studying the effects of lifestyle coaching and home monitoring on patient outcomes. He evaluated the blood pressure monitors on our list the old-fashioned way: with a stethoscope and a manual sphygmomanometer (the thing with a dial that the doctor wraps around your arm and pumps with a rubber bulb).
We checked each device on two test subjects, a man and a woman. We took plenty of rests in between each test, as having your arm squeezed by an arm cuff several times in a row can get uncomfortable.
We evaluated the clarity of each product's instructions, how quickly each device could be set up, and how easy it was for our subjects to read and understand the displays.
Starting with a closed box, we asked our test subjects to assemble each device. In general, that meant inserting batteries, plugging a tube into a console, donning the cuff, and taking a reading. Dr. Fakhouri made sure each cuff was positioned correctly before each reading was taken.
To achieve a balanced viewpoint, this review combines our findings with valuable feedback from owners – people who have used these devices on a daily basis for months or even years.
The circumference of the human arm varies considerably from person to person, and good fit is vital for accurate blood pressure readings. Some of the monitors we reviewed work better on people with larger arms; we address that consideration here.
We also address other useful features, such as automatic shut-off that prevents over-inflation and wireless connectivity that allows you to link your data to your smartphone.
While it's true that health is more important than money, most of us still need to keep the latter in mind when making a purchase. Rather than looking purely at dollars and cents, we consider the overall value of each package and why you might pick a particular blood pressure monitor over its rivals.
Dr. Tamer emphasizes prevention as the most effective way to minimize health issues (cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, etc.) and maximize long-term health. Warm and knowledgeable, he is committed to forming comfortable bonds with his patients by which they can work together to set priorities and manage ongoing health concerns. Tamer earned his MD from the University of Connecticut and completed his internal medicine residency at Yale University.
According to manufacturer specifications, the Omron 10 Series Wireless monitor has the same fitting range as the Withings at 9 to 17 inches. Interestingly, our male tester didn't voice the same complaints about the cuff being tight. For both of our subjects, the Omron's accuracy was excellent. The device takes three readings, each a minute apart – an approach recommended by the American Heart Association. When compared to Dr. Fakhouri's readings, it was consistently the most accurate blood pressure monitor in our elite product lineup.
The Omron boasts an easy-to-use, one-button operation – as long as you understand how to attach the cuff. You needn't thread your arm through the cuff as you would with a "sleeve" model; however, you may wish to consult the manual to find out which way it goes. (We did!) Having sorted out the orientation, we discovered that using this product is pleasantly straightforward. With rapid inflation, auto-stop, a green light to tell you when correct pressure is reached, and a brightly lit screen with plenty of details, this smart package inspires our confidence. Feedback tells us that lots of owners feel the same way.
In addition to indicator lights for normal or hypertension and a bar to compare your BP to normal levels, the Omron also offers helpful date and time functions. When it comes to memory and information management, this device ascends to a much higher level than its competitors. The monitor can record up to 200 readings for an individual in its memory. It can also accommodate two users with 100 readings apiece. To select which user you're testing, simply move the physical slider switch to "1" or "2."
The model we tested was Bluetooth-equipped. A free smartphone app allows you to store unlimited data which you can check anytime and share with your physician. The BP86 10 Series comes with a AC adapter, but if you want to run it off batteries, you'll need to get some; they're not provided.
The Omron BP786 10 Series Blood Pressure Monitor costs $64. For the money, you get unrivaled accuracy, ease of use, a comprehensive data recording system, and the ability to store your readings on your smartphone. Some owners find the sheer volume of information available a little daunting at first, but in general, owner approval is sky high. Most agree with us that this is an extremely accurate blood pressure monitor that delivers superb value.
To ensure an accurate blood pressure reading, it's extremely important that the cuff fits correctly. If it's too small, you get what medical practitioners call "under-cuffing" (common among people with larger arms). This results in inaccurate readings. The LotFancy cuff spans a "medium" size of 8.6 to 14.2 inches. This should cover most people. Our female subject found the LotFancy comfortable and got good readings straight away, but our male subject was unable to use this monitor because his arm marginally exceeded the size range. (He's a pretty big guy.) Although he did ultimately get readings from the device, they proved inaccurate. If you're in doubt about the LotFancy monitor fitting, you might want to run a tape measure around your arm to check. A larger cuff is available on the product ordering page for a few extra dollars.
The LotFancy is the only product we tested that comes without a power source; batteries or a power brick must be used (a power adaptor is available for an extra charge). Once you've found and installed your power source, it's easy to set up. There is an upper arm cuff, a tube that inflates it and feeds information to the monitor, and the monitor itself. Taking a reading is a simple matter of wrapping the cuff around your arm and pressing the start button; automatic inflation and shut-off ensure that everything else is taken care of for you. As with all products on our shortlist, it's worth reading the instructions to familiarize yourself with the model, but owners do not report any major difficulties with this product.
The LotFancy features an alert for irregular heart rate (in this case, plus or minus 25 percent of normal) and a memory function. Owners can get readings in four "groups" – in other words, four different people can record their pressures individually. Each person can view an average of their last three readings, but we did notice that the interface for the memory function can be a bit confusing. For some consumers, the LotFancy's most tantalizing feature is simply the fact that it's FDA approved.
Right now, the LotFancy blood pressure meter costs $24 on Amazon. You would struggle to find another FDA-approved monitor for such a low price. It's uncomplicated, the readout is clear, and up to four people can use it to measure and store their readings at once. Not surprisingly, it's a popular choice among consumers. One or two have questioned the monitor's accuracy, and a few have expressed concerns with its overall durability. Mind you, this is a very cheap blood pressure monitor, and the vast majority of buyers are absolutely delighted with their purchase.
We're told the Health Gurus Blood Pressure Monitor is a "one size fits all device . . . from XS to XXL." This is not a sizing method we're particularly keen on, so we measured it ourselves and found a fairly flexible range of 8 3/4 to 16 1/2 inches. It's still a bit tight on people with larger arms, but in general, accuracy is not compromised. In fact, only the Omron comes closer to the baseline set by Dr. Fakhouri's equipment. While a few owners have reported inconsistencies in measurements, we found none.
The Health Gurus device scores quite well in terms of ease of use. Thanks to the details on the cuff itself, it's easy to place on the arm (as long as you know that "ART" means "artery"). The connecting tube feels a bit insecure, but during testing, it never actually detached. Turning on the machine and taking a reading is a one-button process. Results appear clearly on a large LCD screen of 2 3/4 inches. Batteries are included.
The inexpensive Health Gurus Professional Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor is not overflowing with features, but it's approved by the FDA and has the capacity to log readings for two different people simultaneously. This works well, although selecting who's who is a bit confusing at first. Date and time settings are included, but both most be reset when you change the batteries.
At just $28, the Health Gurus device is an inexpensive yet accurate blood pressure monitor. It may be short on bells and whistles, but it's earned the favor of lots of satisfied customers. A few will disagree with our findings, but with such a high sales volume, it's almost inevitable that a few sample units will not perform as well as our test model did. And, while you might expect complaints about the overall quality of such a low-cost device, the opposite is true: owners praise the Health Gurus' brilliant engineering and excellent value.
The Panasonic EW3109W's cuff circumference ranges from 7.8 to 15.8 inches, which our male tester found to be just big enough. Panasonic is obviously aware of the under-cuffing problem, because for an additional cost, the company offers an extra-large cuff that accommodates arms up to 17.25 inches around. Although it's competitively priced, this model unfortunately failed to live up to our expectations in terms of accuracy. It was the least accurate of our five contenders by a notable margin. Interestingly, most owners do not complain about errors in the Panasonic's readings.
The EW3109W is a large, tube-shaped console that looks a bit unusual. The manufacturer claims it's "easily portable" – the cuff and tube can be wrapped around the meter and stashed in the provided bag for carrying – but it's not the most compact model. Batteries are provided (this is not surprising, as Panasonic makes them), and operation is a one-touch affair. The cuff receives particular praise from some owners for how easy it is to fit one-handed, though some find it to be a little stiff. Opinion is divided about the readout. It's undoubtedly clear, but some owners say that the "baton-style" shape is difficult to handle. We also note that the Panasonic inflates slowly, and no alarm sounds when it's finished a reading.
While there's nothing particularly unusual about the Panasonic's 90-reading memory or averaging features, the manufacturer is keen to point out the built-in filter technology that cuts out noise. ("Noise" refers to anything that isn't your pulse/heart rate.) Thus, Panasonic claims that their monitor provides particularly accurate results. However, as we mentioned above, we're not so sure that this is always the case. We do like the fact that the readout gives a virtually unmissable visual warning if hypertension is detected. Panasonic's reputation for quality equipment is backed by a 24-hour customer service hotline. Notably, not all owners have been happy with the customer support they received on this line.
The Panasonic EW3109W costs $24. This price should represent an excellent value from a company with such a stellar reputation. Unfortunately, the model we tested was not as accurate as we would have liked. Nevertheless, a lot of owners like this model, and high sales volumes suggest that it's a satisfactory unit.
The most futuristic device in our test, the Withings Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor for Apple and Android, offers good cuff flexibility from 9 to 17 inches. The larger of our testers still found it a little snug (a reflection of his physique rather than any fault in the equipment), but both subjects were able to achieve repeatable accuracy. It's true that there are more accurate monitors out there, but the Withings is precise enough for home users to feel confident in its results.
If you're looking for visual simplicity and portability, it doesn't get any better than the Withings Wireless. You get an upper arm cuff and the shiny cylindrical tube that attaches to it. That's it. There's no monitor to read, no tubes to attach – your mobile phone or tablet performs those functions. So whether you find the Withings Wireless blood pressure monitor easy to use or not depends on how comfortable you are with your smartphone or tablet.
All instructions and readings are transmitted via Bluetooth to an app on your Apple or Android device. To start measurements, simply set up your account, press a button, fit the cuff around your upper arm (care is needed; we managed to fit it upside down the first time!), and stay tuned to your screen for the information. To a large extent, the Withings is quite intuitive. This is just as well, because a vital portion of the manual's text is printed in white on a green background – very difficult to read. You need to check for exact compatibility (original iPads aren't covered), but most recent Bluetooth-enabled iOS and Android gadgets should work.
The Withings' entire feature set revolves around its wireless capability and the Withings Health Mate App. The app, available in several languages, displays all kinds of information in what the manufacturer calls "easy-to-understand charts." Because the information is stored in the cloud, it should be retained indefinitely. Conveniently, readings can be sent directly to any suitably equipped medical practitioner. The Withings is certified as a Class II FDA-Cleared Medical Device.
When compared to the other monitors in our ratings, the Withings' price of $74 could be viewed as expensive. However, the advanced technology you get offers considerable data capability and the potential for more in the future. If you're not into wireless digital gadgets, this probably isn't the blood pressure monitor for you. A few people have had problems with functionality and connectivity, but most find it to be extremely accurate and convenient. As one of our reviewers said, it's definitely the coolest product in this lineup.
There's no doubt that the best blood pressure monitor available is the Omron 10 Series Wireless Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor. According to the manufacturer, it's the monitor most recommended by doctors and pharmacists. Our own tests, many of them carried out with a doctor present, underline why. With exceptional accuracy, a clear display, and a fabulously comfortable cuff that accommodates a wide range of arm sizes, this easy-to-use blood pressure monitor uses a testing methodology approved by the American Heart Association. It's simply the Best of the Best.
Worthy of mention, and a top pick for those who always have their smartphone with them, is the Withings Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor for Apple and Android. It's expensive, but the advanced technology and portability make it an attractive alternative to the Omron.
The LotFancy FDA Approved Digital Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor is our Best Bang for Your Buck. With such a high consumer approval rating, we feel confident in saying that no other blood pressure monitor gives as much for such a low price. It's the least expensive of our finalists, yet it comes with FDA approval. It's clear and straightforward, and up to four people can store their data on it at one time. No batteries are included with this package, but that's a small price to pay. The standard LotFancy is not a device that will fit larger people. If there's any doubt, check your arm circumference before you buy, as a larger cuff option is available.
A close second in the "Bang for the Buck" category is the Health Gurus Professional Upper Arm Blood Pressure Monitor. If you're bigger around the bicep, it would be a good option.