/ Health, Home & Energy

Is home testing good for your health?

Man using heart monitor

With more ways than ever to take responsibility for our own health, is this a lifestyle change we should all be making – or a fad best forgotten? Will you be embracing the home health test trend?

Another day, another message about taking responsibility for your own health. Get out the blood pressure monitor, pop into Boots for a home test kit before you bother the GP, get a health check free with your gym membership… the list goes on.

But where should we draw the line between taking responsibility for our own health and wading in without adequate tools and understanding?

Home testing on test

We’ve just tested ten blood pressure monitors available on the high street and found four – all wrist monitors – that we can’t recommend as they scored so low for accuracy, although we also found three top-scoring Best Buys.

And our research into private health MOTs last year found that the risks involved weren’t always explained clearly enough. By risks, I mean factors such as:

  • Tests offering false reassurance (i.e. failing to detect a problem).
  • Tests picking up on a potential problem that causes you to worry but turns out to be nothing (tests such as blood tests aren’t designed to be done on people without symptoms, for example).
  • The test itself causing harm. For example, an independent government committee has recommended that companies stop full-body CT scanning immediately. It believes the harm (from radiation) outweighs the benefit – yet these are still on sale.

But on the other hand, isn’t it better to be in control of your own health? After all, most of us wouldn’t rely on home testing alone to tell us if we’re ill.

If you buy a dodgy blood pressure monitor, won’t you soon find out if you continue to have check-ups at the local surgery? And surely if you continue to be worried about your bowels, you’ll do something other than a home test?

The sceptic in me says this is a market that’s growing faster than our understanding of it. But then, maybe my worries are just a hangover from the days of ‘doctor knows best’?


When my GP told me that my blood pressure was hovering around the upper line for good health I bought a battery powered wrist pressure/pulse model That recorded the results so I could keep a daily record. This gave high results (roughly +10) confirmed by my GP so I bought another one (different make) about a year later. On this one my pressure was so high I should have had only days to live! Six months later I wasted more money on an upper arm model and this gave very similar stupid results. Well, I’m still here 10 years later and the surgery says I’m still steady and likely to be around for a few more years. Now I’m not daft (yet) and after being an engineer for 60 years I do know how to follow the instructions so my advice is not to buy any rubbish that hasn’t been calibrated properly by the manufacturer and then compared with a ‘proper’ tester used by a medical practitioner you can trust.

Make sure to take a succession of readings Google says

That link to the Blood Pressure Association via bpassoc.org.uk is not the official bloodpressureuk website

Emily – This article was written very nearly ten years ago and it is possible that the weblink was the most appropriate at the time.

I have missed going to the medical practice every few months and having a go on the sphygnomanometer.

The last test I had was on a new machine which had three pressure testing sleeves [left and right arms and right calf] used simultaneously to ensure a reliable reading. Luckily I don’t have a BP problem – it’s just another box that has to be ticked by the nurse for patient safety and quality control purposes I suppose.

It’s a pity the practice will not do lung-function testing at present because of coronavirus concerns. I suggested I stand in the car park and give them my best Pavarotti impression.