Thanks to reliable readings and ease of use, digital blood pressure monitors are used by many people to take their own blood pressure measurements at home. Healthcare professionals are using professional-grade automatic digital blood pressure monitors more frequently, too. Use this guide to automatic digital blood pressure monitors to explore essential information about these devices.
Understanding Blood Pressure Numbers
Blood pressure (BP) is the pressure circulating blood exerts against blood vessel walls. Unless otherwise noted, blood pressure measurements indicate pressure against arteries, the vessels that carry blood from the heart to other areas of the body.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Blood pressure measurement has two numbers. The first number is the systolic blood pressure, or the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and pushes blood throughout your body. The second number is the diastolic blood pressure, or the pressure when your heart rests between beats.
For most adults, normal blood pressure is a systolic pressure below 120 and a diastolic pressure below 80. These ranges are a general guideline for understanding blood pressure. A healthy blood pressure range differs for each individual based on age and other factors. Talk with your physician for specific information regarding your own blood pressure.
How Automatic Digital BP Monitors Work
An automatic digital blood pressure monitor uses an inflatable cuff, a battery-powered pump, and a pressure sensor. With an automatic device, you can inflate the cuff with a push of a button rather than by pumping a rubber squeeze ball.
Many automatic blood pressure monitors use the oscillometric method of measurement. These monitors detect vibrations in the arterial wall created by changes in blood flow pressure.
When the cuff fully inflates around your arm, it stops the flow of blood in your brachial artery. As the cuff deflates below systolic pressure, blood begins to flow back through the brachial artery. This blood flow creates vibrations on the arterial wall.
The vibrations travel from the arterial wall, through the air in the cuff, to a transducer in the digital monitor. The transducer converts the measurement into electrical signals to provide a BP reading.
The cuff continues to deflate, and when the cuff pressure falls below the resting heart pressure, blood flows smoothly. Since the blood no longer has to push against the arterial wall, the vibrations stop. The blood pressure monitor records a series of pressure waves that start off slight, then increase, then weaken and fade away.
Guidelines for Reliable Readings at Home
When checking your blood pressure at home, you’ll follow the same steps as your physician or other healthcare professional. For consistency, try to measure your blood pressure at the same time each day. Your healthcare provider might want you to measure your BP twice daily.
Avoid food, alcohol, exercise, smoking, and bathing for 30 minutes prior to taking a blood pressure measurement as these activities can temporarily raise or lower your blood pressure.
Unless instructed otherwise, rest for at least 15 minutes before taking the measurement. To relax, sit in a quiet place in a comfortable position with your feet flat on the ground and your back against the chair.
Calm your mind and avoid stressful thoughts. Since stress raises blood pressure, you should avoid measuring during stressful times.
Once you’ve completed the 15-minute resting period, place the cuff directly on your upper arm, not over clothes. If your sleeve is tight around your arm, you should remove the sleeve to get an accurate reading.
Place your chosen arm on a table with the cuff raised to the same level as your heart. Be still and do not talk during the reading. Finally, start the monitor to record the measurement.
Since a single measurement won’t accurately portray your true blood pressure, you’ll need to take two to three readings. Wait a few minutes between measurements so the arteries can go back to their normal state, and record every measurement to give to your doctor.
Features of BP Monitors for Home Use
Comparing features of digital monitors can help you find the right one for you. The American Heart Association does not recommend wrist and fingertip monitors for at-home use because they provide less reliable readings than upper arm monitors.
If a cuff is not the right size, it can give you inaccurate readings. The inflatable part of the cuff, called the bladder, should cover about 80 percent of the length around your upper arm. The width of the cuff should cover about two-thirds of your upper arm from your shoulder to your elbow.
Look for a monitor with an easy-to-read display—you can read backlit screens more easily in low-light conditions.
As this guide to automatic digital blood pressure monitors shows, these devices provide people with important information they can share with their doctors. Some monitors can even store data on the device, but you can always keep a paper record of your measurements for reference.
If you want a monitor with data storage, look at how many measurements the machine will retain. And if someone else in your household will use the monitor, consider getting a device that can record for more than one person.
Many devices for home use also display other data. For example, some devices can alert you to an irregular heartbeat so you can consult with your physician right away.
Features of Professional Automatic BP Monitors
When purchasing an automatic digital BP monitor for your healthcare facility, consider the features you need. These devices can provide quick and accurate blood pressure measurements, arrhythmia detection, and an indication of hypertension.
Professional digital monitors can use both auscultatory and oscillometric measurement methods. These complementary methods provide reliable results for healthcare professionals.
Use ambulatory blood pressure monitors (ABPM) to record blood pressure readings continuously over a given time frame—typically 24 to 48 hours. This non-invasive approach can help you monitor and evaluate the correlation between a patient’s blood pressure and their activities and sleep patterns.
Use ABPM devices to avoid inaccurate whitecoat readings in the office and to get a full picture of someone’s blood pressure in real time throughout activities of daily life. An ABPM that measures the diastolic level can enhance patient comfort.
All States M.E.D. carries a high-quality selection of professional blood pressure equipment for sale. Whether you’re taking in-office readings or ambulatory readings, shop with us for accurate, reliable, and durable devices. Find your new monitor today.