blood pressure sphygmomanometer monitor

Hypertension or high blood pressure, the notorious non-communicable disease is now a common household name. At our primary health centre, I have patients belonging to all the socio-economic groups who are suffering from this disease.

Modifying the lifestyle, making the correct dietary changes, reducing the consumption of salt in the diet and strictly taking the anti-hypertensive medicines are the ways to control the blood pressure and keep it in the normal range. Self monitoring of one’s own blood pressure at home is of utmost importance when it comes to managing hypertension. However, most of the persons get confused when it comes to choosing the right blood pressure monitor. This is simply because of the various types of blood pressure monitoring devices that are now available in the market. This article is about the different types of such monitoring devices covering the features and will definitely help you make the right decision in choosing one for your home. But, before that, I highly recommend you to read this article on high blood pressure to get a basic knowledge about the disease.

Types of Blood Pressure Monitoring Devices

If you didn’t know already, there is a one word for these blood pressure monitoring devices. And that simple word is “Sphygmomanometer” derived from the greek word sphygmos (pulse) and the scientific term manometer (pressure meter). Now there are two types of sphygmomanometers :

  1. Manual &
  2. Automatic (digital)

 

Manual type of blood pressure monitors

The manual blood pressure monitors was invented in 1881 by Dr Samuel Karl von Basch. The device consists of an inflatable cuff which works together with a mercury or mechanical manometer. Even today, the manual type of sphygmomanometers are preferred by clinicians for their accuracy. Based on the measuring system used, the manual type of blood pressure meters can be divided into two sub-types :

  • Mercury Sphygmomanometer
  • Aneroid Sphygmomanometer

A stethoscope will have to be used with these type of monitors to record the diastolic blood pressure. For recording the systolic blood pressure alone the palpation method can be used and stethoscopes are not required.

Mercury blood pressure monitor

The mercury type of sphygmomanometers are by far the most accurate ones when it comes to clinical or research purpose. The inflatable cuff is connected to a column of mercury which rises and falls according to the pressure variations made by the pump. Measurements are recorded in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). Care must be taken while using mercury sphygmomanometers because mercury spillage can happen and can be potentially dangerous. I’d recommend it for home use only if there are medical students, healthcare workers in your home. They should not be kept within the reach of small children. Buy the mercury sphygmomanometers for use at small clinics, hospitals, laboratories etc. These type of meters last longer and does not require any calibration. I recommend the following brands of mercury sphygmomanometers :

Diamond mercury blood pressure monitor
Diamond mercury blood pressure monitor

Aneroid blood pressure monitor

These type of meters use a mechanical system with a dial. They do  not use mercury and hence are safer than the former type of meters. Because of the smaller size of the dial, these type of meters are weightless and can be easily carried around. They are also inexpensive compared to the digital and mercury sphygmomanometers. Frequent calibration are needed for these type of monitors and therefore are less accurate than the mercury meters. I recommend the following aneroid sphygmomanometers :

Dr Morepen aneroid sphygmomanometer
Dr Morepen aneroid sphygmomanometer

NOTE – You’ll need a stethoscope to record the blood pressure while using the manual type of sphygmomanometers. Click here for some of the best stethoscopes that you can easily buy online.

Digital Blood Pressure Monitor

The digital blood pressure monitors are the easiest to use and measure blood pressure. The cuff is inflated automatically by an electronic pump. Systolic and diastolic blood pressure is derived from the mean arterial blood pressure which is detected by the sensors using the oscillometric method. No special training is needed to operate a digital blood pressure meter. Stethoscopes are not required for recording the values. This is the reason what makes the digital meters the most recommended devices for use at home. Before using the device, you’ll need to take it to your doctor to calibrate and verify the results. Most of the digital blood pressure meters comes with additional features like displaying the pulse rate, detecting irregular heart beats,  in-built memory for saving the measurements, audio notifications for high or low blood pressure and even talking out the measured value.

omron 7120 blood pressure monitor
Omron HEM 7120 digital blood pressure monitor

The digital blood pressure monitors however cannot be used  in certain medical conditions such as arrythmias, pre-ecclampsia, arteriosclerosis etc. In such cases, manual sphygmomanometers should be used to record accurate blood pressure. I recommend the following brands of digital blood pressure meters :

MUST READ —> Top 5 digital blood pressure monitors in India

Always choose digital blood pressure monitors that uses upper arm cuffs. Cuffs for wrist and even fingers are more likely to give less accurate results. And before placing the order, make sure that the cuff size is right for you.

Choosing the right Cuff size

The width of the arm cuff should be of the right size to fit smoothly and snugly on your upper arm. Too small cuff sizes can give incorrect high blood pressure readings and large-sized cuffs can yield incorrect low blood pressure readings. Ideally, the air bladder inside the cuff should cover 80% of your arm. In order to find the right cuff size for your arm, take a piece of string and measure the circumference of your upper arm at the midpoint between shoulder and elbow. Ask for someone’s help if needed. Use the following table to find the right cuff size after taking the mid-arm circumference :

Mid-Arm measurement in cmsCuff Size
17 to 22Small
23 to 32Medium
33 to 42Large

 

Tips to Remember

Here is a list of tips and tricks that you should keep in mind before buying a blood pressure monitor for use at home :

  1. Always go for an automatic, upper-arm, cuff type blood pressure monitor for home use. Avoid the wrist and finger type monitors as they are likely to give less reliable results.
  2. Consider the manual type of sphygmomanometers only if the help of a trained healthcare worker is available in your home or household
  3. Check whether the monitor is validated and approved by the various International standards
  4. Choose the right cuff size for reliable and accurate results
  5. Take the blood pressure monitor to your doctor and get it tested before using it at your home
  6. If you have cardiac arrythmias, arteriosclerosis, pulsus alternates,pulsus paradoxes, pregnancy induced hypertension, it would be better to choose a manual sphygmomanometer instead of the digital type
  7. Always write down the blood pressure values with date and time in a diary or notebook and take it with you on every appointment with your doctor
  8. Do frequent calibration checks if you’re using an aneroid or digital blood pressure monitor
  9. The cuff should be tied in such a way that it fits smoothly on the upper arm. Loosening and tightening of the cuff can give incorrect readings.
  10. The arm should be placed at the level of the heart, the person relaxed and not talking while taking the reading

How helpful was this article? If you have anything more to add to this article, please do share it in the comments below. To get more such posts delivered right in to your mailbox, just fill up the subscription form at the top of this page.

Dr Prasoon

Dr Prasoon

Author at BeingTheDoctor
Dr Prasoon, founder of BeingTheDoctor is a qualified medical practitioner who finds time to write articles on "health" and his "clinical experiences". He is currently engaged in providing primary health care services in rural India. Learn more in the "about" page.
Dr Prasoon

Latest posts by Dr Prasoon (see all)

Ultimate Buyer’s Guide for Choosing the Best Home Blood Pressure Monitor
Tagged on:     

4 thoughts on “Ultimate Buyer’s Guide for Choosing the Best Home Blood Pressure Monitor

  • November 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm
    Permalink

    Dr Prasoon . I am Rambabu . I read few of your articles and found them very useful . I have a small query . I have my age old parents with me . Both are suffering from hypertension . At times it is very difficult to take them out for bp checkup . Can you pl suggest best bp monitor . People are saying that automatic ones are not accurate while conventional and Mercury models are the best . Is it so ? Pl do suggest
    Thanks in advance

    Reply
    • November 5, 2016 at 3:15 pm
      Permalink

      Hello Rambabu
      Home monitoring of hypertension can easily be done with automatic digital blood pressure meters.
      Its accuracy is comparable to conventional mercury sphygmomanometers. If you are looking for ease of use, go ahead with digital meters. Your parents will also find it simple to check their own blood pressure with the digital meters. Check out this link for 5 of the most popular blood pressure digital meters you can buy. Hope this helped.
      Regards

      Reply
  • April 29, 2017 at 7:02 pm
    Permalink

    very informative. keep reviewing .
    best wishes.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *