Blood pressure tests are recommended by most physicians. In fact, doctors prefer that patients, with high blood pressure monitor their blood pressure daily and record the results. When presented with the home blood pressure test results, the physician has detailed information about the patient’s condition and can create an effective treatment plan.
Types of Home Blood Pressure Kits
There are multiple types of home blood pressure kits available over the counter at pharmacies and department stores. Some are more reliable than others and the costs range between $17 -$130. Don’t be fooled by costs. Consumer reports showed that high cost didn’t equal best results. It is important to research the self-test kit and consult a physician before purchasing.
You can purchase self test kits that will measure your blood pressure from:
Test Blood Pressure with your Finger
Finger self test blood pressure kits are extremely sensitive to body temperature and positioning. As a result, it is very difficult to receive accurate results from these fairly expensive (generally cost over $100) kits.
Test Blood Pressure with your Wrist
Wrist tests have shown similar disadvantages as the finger tests. They are extremely sensitive to positioning. However, they offer an advantage for measuring blood pressure for the obese. This is because obesity does not have a big impact on wrist size. For best results, rest your wrist at heart level. The wrist based home blood pressure kits are priced high (over $100).
Test Blood Pressure with your Arm
To receive the most accurate results when monitoring your blood pressure, it is said that the closer you are to your heart, the more accurate the results. This is why arm test kits remain the most accurate method of testing blood pressure.
For best results, place the cuff an inch above the elbow on your left arm. Wrap your arm so that one finger will fit inside the snug fitted cuff. This will allow you to test your pressure accurately. Arm kits range in price from $17-$130 and they are the best self test choice.
Blood Pressure Monitors for Self Tests
Once you decide on a home blood pressure test kit to purchase, the next step is to choose a device that will measure and monitor your blood pressure. The options are:
- Aneroid monitors
- Digital monitors
Aneroid Blood Pressure Monitors
The aneroid monitor reads your blood pressure using a stethoscope. The aneroid can be purchased built into the test device and displays the results using a dial gauge. This is the traditional method of blood pressure testing and it continues to be used because it provides accurate results when done correctly.
How to use the Aneroid Blood Pressure Monitor:
- Put the cuff on the left arm
- Place stethoscope ear pieces in your ear
- Place the disk of the stethoscope onto the crease of your arm
- Rapidly (must be rapid) squeeze the bulb to inflate the cuff, must be snug
- Begin to release very little air from the cuff by turning the valve on the bulb, 2-3 millilitres/second
- While letting air out, listen for your heartbeat, when you hear it, check the gauge for your blood pressure reading, and right it down
- Continue to let air out, when you stop hearing your heartbeat check the gauge and write down that number
- The numbers you have written down are you blood pressure results the first number/second number, ex: 120/80
Digital Blood Pressure Monitors
The newest methods of home blood pressure testing include built in digital monitors. There is a partially automated device which will deflate the cuff automatically. It then measures and displays your blood pressure reading on a digital screen. It is partially automated because it requires manual cuff inflation with a bulb.
The automated devices both inflate and deflate the cuff. It will also measure and displays your blood pressure reading on a digital monitor. The benefit of some of these automated models is that they can log and store past measurements.
FDA Approval of Home Blood Pressure Test Kits
FDA has set a standard for self test blood pressure kits. To meet these standards, kits must be clinically tested to prove that they provide accurate results that meet the prescribed medical standards.
FDA recommends that these home tests do not replace medical checkups. However, they should be used alongside/comparatively with your physician’s results.
Accuracy of Home Blood Pressure Tests
The accuracy of self test blood pressure kits depends on the type of kit being used and its quality. Other factors that may affect the accuracy of the test include: position, stress, coffee, smoking, alcohol and exercise.
Physical position can skew results when you test blood pressure at home.
It is important that you are relaxed and that your body is well supported when you are testing your blood pressure. Any strain to the body can cause an increase in your readings.
If you test your blood pressure in a seated position, your back and legs must be supported. For best results, sit properly in a chair with both feet touching the ground, back supported and with your arm resting comfortably on your lap. Do not strain or hold your arm in any other position. If you prefer to lie down, lie on your back and rest your arm on a pillow.
Stress, coffee, smoking, alcohol and exercise can either raise or lower your blood pressure results.
It is best to conduct a blood pressure test without any external influences to you system. Conducting a test after a bath, yoga, smoking a cigarette, drinking alcohol or coffee may produce lower than regular results as you blood pressure decreases when you are relaxed.
Learn More about Self Test Blood Pressure Kits
American Heart Association: Recommendations for Blood Pressure Measurement in Humans
A Statement for Professionals from the Subcommittee of Professional and Public Education of the American Heart Association Council on High Blood Pressure Research.
WebMD: Home Blood Pressure Kits: Quality Varies
Consumer reports finds wide range of accuracy in home tests for hypertension and blood glucose.
FamilyDoctor.org: Blood Pressure Monitoring at Home
Information and a video about why and how to use the different kinds of self test blood pressure kits.
Guide to Blood Pressure: Blood Pressure Guide
Offers articles, and updates about blood pressure and the different methods of testing and monitoring blood pressure at home.
FDA: Blood Pressure Monitors
Article written by the FDA about the safety of blood pressure monitors.