10 Best Blood Pressure Monitors | March 2017
- quick and silent inflation
- advanced averaging feature
- indicates correct reading position
- auto shutoff to conserve battery
- extra large display screen
- shows a bp classification indicator
- comes with a carrying pouch
- optional ac adapter available
- abnormal readings flash
- detects irregular heartbeats
- can store 4 user profiles
- indicates cuff fit errors
- can be paired with 8 devices
- creates graphs to monitor trends
- takes upper arm bp readings
- comes with 4 aaa batteries
- automatically pumps up
- has an hypertension indicator bar
- compares results to normal levels
- can store 100 readings on device
- bright backlit display
Natural And Unnatural Responses
You get cut off in traffic. Your boss dumps a new, impossible deadline on your desk. Your spouse utters the words "second honeymoon." Your daughter claims she met the man of her dreams at the concert she went to last night. All of these things will undoubtedly cause a spike in your blood pressure.
Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with that; increased blood pressure in times of stress is actually normal. Your body's fight or flight response engages in times of stress, flooding your blood with adrenaline and cortisol. Those hormones increase your heart rate and constrict your blood vessels, which, in turn, turns up your blood pressure. The effect only lasts as long as you're exposed to a stressor stimulus, after which your body begins to regain homeostasis.
This kind of spike in blood pressure is circumstantial, to be sure, and it's very much on the safe side, provided you aren't suffering from other heart conditions at the time that an increase in stress could exacerbate. You could detect some such heart conditions–and catch them early enough to seek effective treatment–by utilizing a sphygmomanometer, more commonly called a blood pressure monitor.
You've likely experienced these things when you go to the doctor's office. You wait around one of his rooms while he's off eating lunch or finishing up a round of golf. At some point in your waiting, a nurse comes in and takes your blood pressure. She straps a Velcro arm band around your upper arm, squeezes a little rubber ball that causes the arm band to tighten, places a stethoscope against the inside of your elbow, and releases a valve on the armband that loosens it back up, all while staring at what looks like a big thermometer on the wall.
These blood pressure monitors eliminate the nurse and the big wall-thermometer, and instead use the air inside the arm band to measure vibrations in your arterial walls. Those vibrations activate a transducer that converts them to electrical signals measured by your monitor.
Despite the fact that these monitors, known as oscillatory blood pressure monitors, don't use mercury pressure as a measuring tool, their readouts still adhere to the traditional mm Hg numbers by which medical associations around the world talk about blood pressure.
Pressure By The Numbers
Understanding the readout of your blood pressure monitor is vital to understanding the state and health of your heart. As mentioned above, blood pressure monitors measure blood pressure in millimeters of mercury, both at systolic and diastolic points in your heartbeat.
The systolic measurement is the beat during which your heart pumps blood out through your arteries, and it's the top number in the readout. The diastolic measurement is an evaluation of the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats, and it's the bottom number in the readout. When you hear a nurse or doctor say, "120 over 80," that means 120mm Hg systolic pressure and 80mm Hg diastolic pressure.
It's important to measure these levels at a resting state, which might be why those nurses and doctors make you wait so long in the office; they let you rest for a while before taking any measurements.
Anything less than 120 over less than 80 is a good thing. That's considered normal (although it can get too low, as well). Once you get above that, you enter prehypertension pressures, which may not require medication, just a few lifestyle changes like an increase in exercise or an improvement in your diet. Anything above 140 over 90 and you've got yourself a case of hypertension. Your doctor will likely prescribe you something to lower your pressure while you make additional lifestyle adjustments.
The monitors on our list all give you accurate measurements, though some have bigger, better displays than others, and some can even send your readouts straight to your smartphone. Some can also wrap around your writs instead of your upper arm, as well, should you desire discretion in the event you need to keep the monitor on for a few days or more worth of measurements.
Pressure From Horse To Man
While the circulatory system has been the subject of medical curiosity for millennia, it was only in the last few hundred years that medical scientists began the study and understanding of blood pressure as it relates to human health.
The first measurement of an animal's blood pressure involved a horse rather than a man. Reverend Stephen Hales, in 1733, stuck a glass tube perpendicularly into a horse's artery and measured the height of the blood that rose in it with each pump.
Almost 150 years later, Samuel Siegfried Karl Ritter von Basch (a.k.a. the man whose name alone will cause a spike in blood pressure), invented the first sphygmomanometer.
These early blood pressure monitors utilized actual mercury for their measurements, a practice which has largely fallen out of favor today for environmental concerns. Mercury is, after all, rather unsafe, and its mining practices are often unethical and dangerous.
For those reasons, manufacturers turned to digital means of measurement, utilizing pressure sensitivity not too dissimilar to the operations of a microphone to listen in on the pressure pumping through your blood vessels.