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The best blood pressure monitor won’t break the bank

Blood pressure

We tested blood pressure monitors and found six Best Buys, but almost as many Don’t Buys. Surprisingly – it’s not always about the price. Our tests showed that expensive monitors aren’t necessarily the best.

If you have high blood pressure and the very thought of going to the GP’s surgery sends it through the roof, you are probably relying on your home monitor to keep you firmly in control of those all-important numbers.

Using a blood pressure monitor at home can be very useful, and for April’s issue of Which? magazine we tested well-known brands including Omron, Boots and IBP to find out how accurate and helpful they are.

So why have we found, not for the first time, that so many monitors don’t make the grade when we put them through their paces against three international standards, in clinic conditions?

In our blood pressure monitor tests, the wrist monitors have fallen down again – although we did find reliable examples – and this is likely to be for a practical reason. You have to lift the wrist to heart level if you’re using a wrist-worn monitor, and this introduces inconsistencies into readings.

Expensive doesn’t mean excellent

Often when I’m buying goods on the high street, I’ll use price as an indicator of quality, but this rule isn’t as easy to apply for blood pressure monitors. Although pricier models tend to have fancier features, some of our most accurate monitors were the cheapest. Sometimes, basic can be just as good as high spec.

As many as 16 million people in the UK suffer from high blood pressure, some of whom don’t know they have it if they have no symptoms. It’s vital that those who turn to home monitoring get a correct result.

The British Hypertension Society has lists of validated monitors, but we also rate usability and tell you models that are Don’t Buys as well as the Best Buys.

Do you monitor your own blood pressure? How did you choose your monitor and are you confident that it gives you accurate readings?

Comments
Profile photo of malcolm r
Member

I bought a Boots BP monitor with an arm cuff and used it for a few years now. Recommended by my Doctor who used a similar monitor. The readings seem consistent and in line with the occasional surgery reading. My Doc is happy to check them side by side when I visit (rarely) – must remember to take it next time. I found it useful to take regular readings over a week or two before a BP check, helping avoid the white coat syndrome which seems to result in inflated readings, as I’m not a great fan of pills.

Member
Michael Reddy says:
20 March 2013

I am type 2 diabetic and have regular BP checks (4 times a year), as part of my treatment. As I suffer from ‘white collar’ higher BP results when I visit the surgery I have used a Boots BP monitor since May 2003 (model code 22-42-532). It has given very consistent results and has been tested against the equipment used at the surgery. It is also still operating on the original batteries..

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

I used to have a Boots wrist blood pressure monitor which was little more than a random number generator, even taking care to keep my wrist at the correct height as Joanna mentions in her introduction. I know others who have had the same problem with wrist-type monitors.

I now have an Omron blood BP with a cuff. I have not compared it with my GP’s meter but the readings seem plausible and that is reassuring.

Member
Ron Johnson says:
20 March 2013

I purchased an Omron M7 shortly after discovering I had high blood pressure. At that time most doctors at my surgery seemed to prefer manual blood pressure gauges but I have noticed that, over the last three to four years the Omron M7 has taken over. I had not thought to take my own gauge in to check it against theirs but will do so in the future. I have been pleased with the Omron though a little concerned and curious at the huge price difference between it and other manufacturers.

Profile photo of rarrar
Member

The only Which test I can find on BP monitors is 2.5 years ago !
I assume you are talking about a more recent review can you post a link to it please ?

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Joanna has said that they were tested for the April issue of Which? magazine, so maybe we will find something on the website soon.

Profile photo of rarrar
Member

Thanks, I always thought that Which had a strict embargo on articles before the Magazine was actually posted to subscribers but they seem to have done away with it recently !

Profile photo of Patrick Steen
Member

They’ll be online soon Rarrar. Sometimes things go online a little earlier because members start getting mags from the weekend. In those mags are links to these Conversations (which makes us happy!), but those links need to be live. If they’re not, when members type them in, they get broken pages! And that makes people unhappy! So, that’s why it might look like things are going online ‘early’, when really we’re just trying to keep everyone happy 🙂 Reviews take a little longer to get online, but you won’t have to wait much longer

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Two of the makes of BP monitors have a model in the Which? ‘Best Buy’ category and another model in the ‘Don’t Buy’ category, because of poor accuracy.

On the basis that most of the models tested were inaccurate, perhaps there is a case for requiring BP monitors to meet the requirements of the British Hypertension Society before they can be sold in the UK.

Congratulations Which? on a really useful article.

Profile photo of rarrar
Member

Measurement of BP is not an “exact science” there is no correct value; it all depends on where and how you measure it.
What is more important is repeatability and tolerance to changes in measurement conditions.

Member
exapp says:
29 March 2013

My doctor suggested a home monitor would be a good idea at my recent Diabetes (type2) check up. This came out of the blue since the readings taken at surgery have always been good. However I decided to investigate purchase and mentioned it to the nurse who recommended Omron. So many models but in the end I chose the M10-IT because of the various features including the ability to store readings for my wife as well and upload direct to the surgery. I purchased from Amazon at about half price of other suppliers (£45). After only 2 weeks it seems fine.

Member
danny says:
13 June 2013

One of your Best Buys in April 2013 issue is Omron Wrist Blood Pressure R7 at £44.82 available from Boots. However, when I checked on the Boots website today, the price is over a £100 !! Why?

Profile photo of johnw
Member

I have had an Omron M6 BP monitor for some years now following my doctor telling me I had hyper tension and putting me on some basic medication. My doctor recently identified increases in my BP and has put me on new medication. During the monitoring prosess it was discovered that my monitor needed recalibration as it was reading higher than the doctor’s monitor which had recently been recalibrated. It seems difficult to get BP monitors recalibrated and expensive. £30 to send it to Omron for calibration plus postage to them. Looking at Which’s current best buy list with the top unit costing £105 and the second £20 it seems to me that the incidence of recalibration and its associated cost has a significant effect on what is a best buy and ought to be included in any recommendations made buy Which.

If you bought the top unit at £105 and wanted to have all the facilities the unit offered at a future recalibration requirement then the £30 + would be worth it. However the cheaper solution would be to throw it away and buy a new £20 monitor. In other words a cheaper unit that costs less than a recalibration cost is a good buy as any recalibration requirement is solved by simply buying a new one and throwing the old one away. I understand that Medical practices frequently have there equipment recalibrated.