Yes. There are monitors available to buy that allow patients to test their blood pressure at home.
However, their accuracy can vary, so it's important to ensure the monitor you use has been approved by the British Hypertension Society.
On this page we’ll talk about:
- How home blood pressure monitors work
- Considerations when using one
- How much they might cost
- Where you can get them
- And what you should look for when buying one
Home blood pressure testing machines work in much the same way as those used in clinical settings. The monitor will have a digital interface, and will be attached to a cuff which is secured around the upper arm.
This cuff will then inflate, and apply pressure to the brachial artery in the arm. This stops blood flowing through the artery for a very short time.
After a second or two the cuff then starts to deflate, and blood begins to intermittently pump through the artery. The cuff then detects the level of vibration in the brachial artery, and takes a reading of the force with which the blood pushes through. This gives the systolic reading.
The cuff then deflates further, and takes the diastolic reading once blood has begun flowing through the artery again continuously.
The display will then give the measurement as a systolic value over a diastolic value.
When taking your own blood pressure at home, there are a few important factors to remember:
- Do not measure your blood pressure within half an hour of drinking caffeine or smoking, or just after eating a large meal;
- If you need the toilet, go before taking your blood pressure;
- Use the same arm for taking readings;
- Rest for five minutes before having your reading taken;
- Make sure your arm is resting on a hard surface and that your feet are placed on the floor.
Not following the above instructions may cause your reading to be inaccurate.
Full instructions on how to use the monitor, along with guidance on how to sit and what to do beforehand, will be supplied with the device.
The charity Blood Pressure UK advises people not to measure their blood pressure too often, as a slight change in readings might cause someone to worry (and result in further increased blood pressure). They also advise taking two or three readings with a couple of minutes between, and then calculating the average from these to give a more accurate measurement.
It varies. Around £20 is the lower end of the price scale for machines validated by the British Hypertension Society. At the other end, the price validated machines can rise to over £150. How much a monitor costs depends on the manufacturer, and whether or not the monitor has supplementary features, such as a memory bank for storing your measurements history.
However, to be effective, all a blood pressure monitor needs to be able to do is give accurate readings. For patients who do not want to spend lots of money on a monitor, logging readings with a pen and paper yourself and keeping them safe is just as efficient as a memory bank facility.
It is possible to buy blood pressure monitors both online and in person. High street pharmacies like Lloyds and Boots, catalogue shops such as Argos and even some large supermarkets may stock them, as do large online stores such as Amazon.
However, when buying a blood pressure monitor, it may be better to do so from a seller which specialises in healthcare items such as a pharmacy, as their staff will be better placed to offer advice and help you choose a suitable model.
Firstly, make sure you are buying your monitor from a legitimate retailer. You should only ever use sellers you can recognise and trust.
It is generally recommended to buy a brand new blood pressure monitor over a second-hand monitor. Blood pressure monitors will need recalibrating every two years or less, and manufacturers will typically charge for providing this service; so the money you save on buying a machine which isn’t brand new, you may end up spending on recalibration anyway when buying second-hand.
Most importantly though, you should buy a machine which has been validated by the British Hypertension Society, or has been through a testing process specified by them as being of equivalent standard. You can find a list of approved machines on their site.