How to buy the best blood pressure monitor
By Christina Woodger
Do you need a wrist or an arm cuff blood pressure monitor? On a budget of £20 or able to spend more? Whatever your needs, our guide will help you pick the best blood pressure monitor for you.
If you want to read and compare all tested blood pressure monitors and find our which ones we recommend then go straight to our blood pressure monitor reviews for our Best Buys and Don't Buys.
As our buying guide video above explains, there are two types of blood pressure monitor: those with a cuff on your upper arm, or those with a cuff on the wrist.
Should you buy a wrist or arm cuff blood pressure monitor?
Wrist blood pressure monitors tend to be lighter and therefore more portable for putting in a bag for when you're travelling. They also take up less storage space in your home.
But they are more prone to giving inaccurate readings because the wrist isn't naturally at heart height, so the wrist has to be carefully positioned while a reading is taken.
Arm blood pressure monitors, meanwhile, are less prone to inaccurate readings as they’re easier to position at heart height.
You might also want to choose an arm monitor because it's easier to handle than a wrist monitor if you have more limited movement.
How accurate are blood pressure monitors?
Not all blood pressure monitors are equal when it comes to accuracy, and comparing models in the shop won’t be enough to know which will report your data correctly every time.
We know how serious the wrong blood pressure reading could prove and we simply can’t recommend an inaccurate tracker – we make them Don't Buys automatically.
How much do you need to spend?
Our tests of blood pressure monitors show that you don't have to spend a fortune to get great value. You can buy four of our Best Buy-recommended blood pressure monitors for less than £25, all of which outperform monitors costing up to £100.
Buying a pricier model often means you're getting a wider range of features - such as the facility to memorise your readings for future reference or the ability to date and time-stamp your readings.
How long does it take to get a blood pressure reading?
Monitors can take anything from just over 20 seconds to more than a minute, with wrist monitors generally giving readings more quickly.
How long a monitor takes is an important feature if you dislike the process and want it over with as quickly as possible, or don't have a lot of time to take your blood pressure.
Blood pressure monitors that store past readings
Some blood pressure monitors collect and store readings for one user, and some can do this for as many as six people.
The ability to store readings can be really useful if you have more than one person with hypertension in your household, or want to pool your money for a model with fancier features, rather than have two basic monitors.
Out of those models that can store readings, the amount of readings they can remember varies, but can be up to 60 recordings. What's right for you depends on your particular needs, such as what you want to share with a health professional such as your GP or nurse.
Blood pressure data averaging
Some blood pressure monitors have a data averaging function; this usually means it will average the last three or so readings for you. There are variations on this – for example, showing data on a graph rather than, or as well as, numerically or averaging data over a longer period of time.
This function could be very useful if you are tracking your blood pressure over time and may be sharing it with a health professional, or have an additional risk factor, such as diabetes.
But if you are a dab hand at Excel, you could equally summarise your data - for example, for your GP - using a spreadsheet, or even using old-fashioned pen and paper by keeping a diary to work out and track this.
Date and time stamp for blood pressure readings
This records the date and time of each reading on your blood pressure monitor. It could help you track your blood pressure over time, see patterns and trends, and share data easily with a health professional.
But not all monitors will tag your readings with the date and time so best to check this feature if you need it.
Blood pressure monitors that link to your phone or tablet
Some blood pressure monitors can link wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet - we've tested three that do this using Bluetooth.
This is great if you want to view and track your readings electronically and store data across your devices, especially if you already track other health data on your phone or tablet, such as your activity levels, calories or weight, and want it all in one place.
However, this functionality is certainly not essential, and you'll pay a premium for this technology.
Blood pressure monitor and PC connection
A minority of blood pressure monitors allow you to download your data onto a PC including Braun blood pressure monitors. A few even come with a memory stick to aid the process.
While this could be a bonus if you're sharing readings with a health professional, you'll find this a step too far if you just want basic readings.
Blood pressure risk indicator
This alerts you to whether your blood pressure reading falls within recommended levels. Read our advice on your blood pressure range for more advice on this.
This could be particularly useful if you’re not having your blood pressure regularly monitored by a health professional or your don't always remember the recommended limits.
But if you're good at monitoring this yourself, you might not want to pay extra for fancier features to keep an eye on whether your blood pressure is within recommended limits.
Irregular heartbeat detector
This is a useful extra that will tell you whether you have an arrhythmia: this is a problem with the rate or rhythm of the heartbeat. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow, or with an irregular rhythm.
Arrhythmia doesn't usually have symptoms, so this may be a feature you'd value in keeping an eye out for potential problems and flagging them with your GP.
But arrhythmia is a relatively rare problem, so you may think this feature is unnecessary.
Do you need a mains adaptor for your blood pressure monitor?
Blood pressure monitors use batteries – usually up to four AAA or AA. Some blood pressure monitors can also be plugged into the mains, but not all of these have a mains adaptor included.
See our battery reviews, including AA and AAA batteries, to buy the best.
Do you need large buttons and digits?
The size of buttons and digits displayed on blood pressure monitors varies, so we’ve let you know where they are larger and therefore easier to see.
This can be a real bonus if you’ve got a visual impairment, or simply don’t want to hunt for your reading glasses every time you take your measurements.
However, this feature may be low on your list of priorities if you've got OK eyesight.
Now find the perfect monitor by checking our blood pressure monitor reviews.