Home Health: Choosing The Best Blood Pressure Monitor

Monitoring your high blood pressure at home can be fast and easy - but how do you begin to shop for a home blood pressure monitor?

One of the biggest threats to personal health these days is hypertension, or high blood pressure. Also known as "the silent killer", hypertension is easily controlled through either diet or drugs, once it is diagnosed. But just because you're on medication doesn't mean that you don't have to continue to monitor your progress and make sure that all's well - but do you really want to go to the doctor's office every few days to have your blood pressure checked?

Thanks to today's technology you don't have to! Small portable blood pressure monitors can now be purchased at a reasonable price for you to monitor your pressure at home and save yourself both money and time traveling back and forth to either medical offices or to the nearest pharmacy or department store to use a public monitor. But what are your options and what should you be looking for in a blood pressure monitor?

First, you have to know a bit about what hypertension is and what exactly you're going to be monitoring. A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers, the diastolic and systolic. The systolic number is the first one you will hear called out by the doctor during a reading and is measuring the peak blood pressure your heart is putting out when the muscle contracts, sending blood rushing through your system. Usually this number should average around 120; anything higher is a sign of prehypertension or full-fledged high blood pressure.

The diastolic number measures the blood pressure between heartbeats, or the lowest that the blood is being pushed through your system. Ideally this number should be at or under 80, with anything higher signaling trouble. So now that you know what you're measuring, let's go shopping for a portable monitor for home use!

The best place to start is with your doctor, obviously. He or she will be able to refer you either to a medical supply store or to a regular salesman with good credentials and a reliable product. Just as you wouldn't walk onto a car lot and purchase the first car you see without doing your research, you should discuss the purchase of a home monitor with your physician and get as many references as you can.

There are two types of blood pressure monitors available at present for general purchase and use; manual and automatic (also called electronic and/or digital). Both have their advantages and disadvantages, which is why discussing your potential purchase with your doctor is vital.

A manual monitor will look very much like what you're used to seeing at the doctor's office - usually this will consist of a blood pressure cuff, a small gauge, a plastic squeeze bulb to inflate the cuff, and a stethoscope or microphone. When you squeeze the bulb and inflate the cuff, the pressure rises around your arm and the needle will move clockwise, giving you a reading. This cheap and inexpensive way of monitoring your blood pressure is popular, but also open to problems. If you're not experienced in taking your own reading, you may misread the dial or not inflate the cuff enough to get a proper reading. Some people need to have a friend there to help take a reading, making it a bit more complicated. As well, the mechanical gauge can wear down or become inaccurate over time, leading you to give a false report back to your doctor, possibly making your situation worse. However, it is still a popular and inexpensive way of monitoring your hypertension.

You've probably already seen the electronic or automatic versions at work in your local pharmacy or shopping center - these consist of an armband or a wrist cuff encased in hard plastic that you slip your arm into. The plastic cuff then inflates automatically and will stay inflated for a few minutes while getting your reading electronically. The results are then displayed on a computer monitor right there in front of you. Obviously this system is less complicated and user-friendlier, but it is also more expensive due to the technology used. However, for an older person who may be too weak to take his or her own pressure manually, it is a viable option. The large digital numbers also assist those who have less than perfect eyesight to see the reading and to track their status faster than trying to read a small mechanical gauge.

Again, discussing any purchase with your doctor is vital to getting the home blood pressure monitor that is best for you. Unfortunately with hypertension becoming more and more common among the general population there have been more and more advertisements for home blood pressure monitors showing up on television and the Internet. Some of these claim to be cheap and effective; offering accurate readings at a fraction of the cost of what your doctor may recommend you purchase. But a little research and a frank talk with your medical professional can insure that you make a wise and informed purchase for an item that could conceivably save your life.

Monitoring your blood pressure at home can be a quick and effective way to keep track of your hypertension, but making a wise and informed purchase can save you time and money in the long run. Discuss and compare your choices with a medical professional before putting down any money and you're sure to end up on the right track for better health in the long run!

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