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Choosing a Blood Pressure Monitor
Safe Home Products sells electronic, oscillometric and traditional units by Forecare, Lumiscope, and/or Omron which measure fom the arm, wrist, or finger. All blood pressure monitors must pass Federal accuracy standards. For wrist and arm units, this means the pressure under optimal conditions is within 2% accuracy and the pulse within 5% of the reading.

Consult your health professional about physical problems that rule out certain types of units. For example, diabetics and those with poor circulation in their hands get inaccurate readings from finger blood pressure monitors.

Each manufacturer has many units with various options. Some units store only the last measurements while others store multiple readings. Some units accommodate large and/or small cuffs as well as "normal" sized cuffs. Others provide paper print-outs or can interface with a computer. Units are semi-automatic, manually inflated, or automatic using fuzzy logic inflation and/or deflation. Brite Sensor Technology, Intellisense, and Accu-Read are three trademarked terms for fuzzy logic technology.

Safe Home Products suggests these steps to select a unit:
  1. Measure the circumference of arm or wrist with a flexible tailor's tape to determine which units will fit. Or cut a strip of paper wrap around your arm or wrist, mark where the paper meets and measure it. Please don't use a metal tape measure as it won't be accurate! If the arm is significantly smaller where the lower part of the cuff will be placed, choose a tapered arm cuff, a wrist model, or a finger tip model.
  2. Rule out units when measurements are at the upper or lower size limits of the supplied cuff (except for models that accommodate smaller/larger cuffs). Improper cuff fit means inaccurate readings.
  3. Decide if a simultaneous blood pressure and pulse display is necessary. Most units display blood pressure readings alternately with pulse.
  4. Decide if a standard or an oversized number read-out is needed.
  5. Is the unit for home, travel, or both? Some battery powered units can use an AC optional adapter. Most people rarely use AC adapters. Other units are more compact, lightweight, and are battery powered.
  6. Decide if a basic or more complex unit is needed. Basic units retain the last blood pressure reading, use manual, semi-automatic, or automatic inflation. Complex units retain multiple readings sometimes for two or more people. Omron now has a unit that interfaces with a PC.
  7. Large and small arm cuffs are available for some units. "Large" arms typically are above 12.6" in circumference. Omron and Forecare have large cuffs that fit up to 17" circumference arms. Omron and Lumiscope both have small cuffs for children or smaller adults. Only the Lumiscope Model 1060 is recommended for children as the inflation is manual.
  8. Ease of application of the unit. Those with arthritis may struggle with the D ring that tightens many arm cuffs. Finger units require adjustments. Most wrist units apply with one hand.
  9. Health issues affect accuracy of readings on some wrist and finger units. Most wrist units advise the user to raise the wrist to the heart level by propping the arm on a stable surface. Some wrist units instruct the arm be held firmly against the heart. Severe hand or arm tremors cause inaccuracy. Circulatory problems create cold hands and inaccurate finger unit readings.
  10. Length of Warranty; Need for Recalibration. Warranties vary from one to five years. Defects usually appear immediately or within a month. Units generally work accurately for years beyond the warranty. All units need to be cross-checked for accuracy initially and every two years. Recalibration by the manufacturer is sometimes needed.

Hints for Proper Blood Pressure Monitoring:
  1. Perform measurement in a quiet place and in a relaxed posture. Rest 15 minutes before taking a reading.
  2. Avoid measurement during stressful situations.
  3. Hold cuff device at heart level for most accurate readings.
  4. For wrist units: apply the cuff to the inside of your left wrist with the digital display in easy view. Place your elbow on a table or other object. Use the storage case to position the arm so that the pressure cuff is at the same height as the heart. Open your hand and fingers slightly and relax with your palm facing up.
  5. For arm units: attach the arm cuff on the proper position of the arm as high as the level of the heart. Do not wind the arm cuff over jacket or sweater sleeve. Do not roll up shirt sleeve because compressing the upper arm affects the measurement
  6. For finger units:make certain your hands are warm. If your circulation is poor or your hands are cold, readings will not be accurate.
  7. Blood pressure readings vary in relation to the level of the cuff from the heart. A four inch difference results in an 8mmHg measurement error.
    Note: Your heart is located slightly below your armpit.
  8. Do not vibrate the unit during measurement.
  9. Do not talk or move during the reading.
  10. To repeat a measurement, loosen or remove cuff and wait 5 to 10 minutes to allow blood to recirculate.
  11. For consistent readings, try to take your blood pressure at the same time each day. Log the readings for review by your physician.
  12. Blood pressure is affected by smoking, alcohol consumption, medication, and physical activity. Allow at least 30 minutes after these events before taking a reading.
  13. In rare situations, an extremely weak pulse or irregular pulse can cause errors which prevent proper measurement. If you notice these abnormal variations, consult your physician.
  14. It is recommended that all home blood pressure monitors be checked initially and at least every two years against readings by trained observers using the cuff/stethoscope auscultation method.

Remember blood pressure readings vary according to many factors including eating, stress, exercise, room temperature, and smoking. There can be a difference of 4 to 5 points (average) between any types of unit. If you normally have readings indicating high blood pressure, any units will read above average readings within the range that is "normal" for you.

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