Sunday, June 5, 2011

Best blood-pressure monitors

You don't need a prescription to buy an at-home blood-pressure monitor. But before spending the money (our tested models were $30 to $130), you should talk with your physician about whether you need one, and check with your health-insurance carrier to determine if the cost may be covered.
The American Heart Association and other medical groups recommend that people with hypertension or suspected high blood pressure routinely monitor themselves. Our experts say that good candidates for at-home monitoring include:
  • Seniors, whose blood pressure can vary;
  • People who experience "white-coat hypertension," a spike in blood pressure when they are tested in a doctor's office or hospital; and
  • People with diabetes, for whom tight blood-pressure control is important.
"People need to play an active role in their own health care, and managing high blood pressure is a very important first step," says Timothy Gardner, M.D., past president of the American Heart Association and medical director of Christiana Care's Center for Heart and Vascular Health in Newark, Del. He and other experts we interviewed said home monitoring gives patients a sense of control that motivates them to work with their doctors and stick with their treatment regimen.
More patients need to monitor themselves at home, and it's important that they choose the best blood-pressure monitor for their needs, including devices that will provide accurate readings. "If you have high blood pressure and you don't treat it, you're much more prone to developing heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems," Gardner says.
For our latest update we added four new models to our Ratings of nine previously tested models. We compared the results of the home monitors with those obtained by pairs of trained testers who used a mercury sphygmomanometer, the standard instrument for recording blood-pressure readings. In our analysis, only models with readings that met criteria based on both U.S. and British international standards were judged excellent for accuracy.
We've also changed some aspects of our testing, which resulted in slight adjustments to previously published scores. Our accuracy scores reflect more current standards, and our convenience scores now reflect button and display size.
Six models received Excellent overall scores (available to subscribers), and seven received Excellent scores for accuracy. Just one model received Poor accuracy and overall scores in our blood-pressure tests.

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