Hypertension or high blood pressure, the notorious non-communicable disease is now a common household name. At our primary health center, 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 the utmost importance when it comes to managing hypertension. However, most of the persons get confused when it comes to choosing the right blood pressure machine. 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 the basic knowledge about the disease.
Types of Blood Pressure Monitoring Devices
If you didn’t know already, there is 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 :
- Manual &
- Automatic (digital)
Manual type of blood pressure machines
The manual blood pressure machines were invented in 1881 by Dr. Samuel Karl von Basch. The device consists of an inflatable cuff which works together with 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 machines 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 machine
The mercury type of sphygmomanometers is 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 millimeters 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 sphygmomanometer deluxe – INR 2000 to 2200 (My Home Device)
- MCP mercury blood pressure apparatus deluxe – INR 3200 to 3500
- Disha mercury type sphygmomanometer – INR 1850 to 2100
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 is needed for these type of machines and therefore are less accurate than the mercury meters. I recommend the following aneroid sphygmomanometers :
- Diamond dial blood pressure machine – INR 650 to 800
- Diamond aneroid sphygmomanometer with built-in stethoscope – INR 1600 to 2200
- Rossmax GB102 Aneroid BP machine – INR 650 to 800
- Dr Morepen aneroid BP machine – INR 700 to 900
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.
The digital blood pressure machines 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 come with additional features like displaying the pulse rate, detecting irregular heartbeats, in-built memory for saving the measurements, audio notifications for high or low blood pressure and even talking out the measured value (accessibility feature for the old and blind).
The digital blood pressure machines, however, cannot be used in certain medical conditions such as arrhythmias, pre-eclampsia, 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 :
- Omron HEM 7120 automatic blood pressure machine – INR 1400 to 1600
- Dr Morepen BP One automatic blood pressure machine – INR 1100 to 1200
- INFI INF 3rd Generation Automatic BP machine – INR 1300 to 1500
- HealthGenie Talking Digital BP machine – INR 1100 to 1200
- HealthSense HealthMate BP300 blood pressure machine – INR 1900 to 2300
MUST READ —> Top 5 digital blood pressure machines in India
Always choose digital blood pressure machines that use 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 cms||Cuff Size|
|17 to 22||Small|
|23 to 32||Medium|
|33 to 42||Large|
Tips to Remember
Here is a list of tips and tricks that you should keep in mind before buying a blood pressure machine for use at home :
- Always go for an automatic, upper-arm, cuff type blood pressure machine for home use. Avoid the wrist and finger type machines as they are likely to give less reliable results.
- Consider the manual type of sphygmomanometers only if the help of a trained healthcare worker is available in your home or household
- Check whether the machine is validated and approved by the various International standards
- Choose the right cuff size for reliable and accurate results
- Take the blood pressure machine to your doctor and get it tested before using it at your home
- If you have cardiac arrhythmias, arteriosclerosis, pulsus alternans, pulsus paradoxes, pregnancy-induced hypertension, it would be better to choose a manual sphygmomanometer instead of the digital type
- 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
- Do frequent calibration checks if you’re using an aneroid or digital blood pressure machine
- 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.
- The arm should be placed at the level of the heart, the person relaxed and not talking while taking the reading.
- In the case of digital blood pressure meters, make sure that all the 4 batteries are changed as a pack.
- Read this article on home blood pressure monitoring to understand the importance of buying your own blood pressure machine.
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