A few weeks ago we wrote to Omron, the market leading blood pressure monitor manufacturer (and I’m certain that Mary our CardioKit Project Manager will not be happy that I’m sharing this story). Part of the CardioKit philosophy is to help patients take charge of their own blood pressure and to encourage this through incentives and real life solutions. Well, the most obvious first step is to purchase a home blood pressure monitor and we would encourage all patients with borderline or high blood pressure to self-monitor. Anyway, we asked Omron for discount vouchers for their most popular monitors that we could then pass on to patients/followers and the response was positive — excellent!
Excitement quickly turned to disappointment when we received the vouchers. Although they offered a decent 30% discount on the RRP for the M3 model, you could still purchase this model much cheaper directly through Amazon etc (the market price). Shame. Nevertheless we would still recommend Omron and so here is a simple summary to help you home-monitor.
These can be pretty confusing. Lots of different versions with the same name but subtle differences — let’s make things simple.
We would recommend an upper arm blood pressure monitor (like we use in hospitals). The Omron M2 Basic monitor is a Which best buy from February 2016 and this no frills option is an excellent choice. You can purchase from £21–25 online. If you are on a budget the M2 is the one to get but you can pretty much get the standard M2 (i.e. no ‘basic’ in the name) for the same price and this includes pulse irregularity detection. Here is a link to Amazon — Omron M2.
If you want to step things up then you have the M3 and M6 models. These have a larger cuff range 22–42cm (good if you have a larger arm) vs 22–32cm for the M2. Make sure you choose the version that has “Comfort” in the name as these come with the Intelli Wrap Cuff which basically removes any worries about correct cuff positioning and is very easy. You should be able to pick up an M3 Comfort monitor for £40 or an M6 Comfort (the one we have) for £44. Here are the links to Amazon — Omron M3 Comfort or M6 Comfort.
***There are offers on all these currently***
How to measure your blood pressure
We would recommend you start off with a week long diary to establish and familiarise yourself with your own blood pressure. Thereafter a maximum of twice weekly (do not obsess) and eventually less frequently, depending on the stability of your readings. You cannot label yourself as “white coat” hypertension unless you can prove your readings settle when you are at home. Therefore you either need to home monitor or have a 24 hour blood pressure monitor. The majority of people we see with “white coat” hypertension simply have hypertension.
- Sit relaxed with your arm outstretched at chest level
- Make sure the cuff is applied directly to skin (i.e. not over clothes)
- Position the lower border of the cuff 1 inch above the crease of the elbow
- Ensure the cuff ‘artery marker’ is positioned over the brachial artery (most cuffs have an image and instructions to guide you) — sit with your arm outstretched resting on a table and palm facing up. If you imagine the outer border of your upper arm as a clock face (looking down towards your hand) you want the ‘artery’ marker on the cuff to be positioned at 1 o’clock, i.e. slightly rotated to the inner border of your arm relative to the midline. This is probably the most variable bit in a pretty straightforward procedure and not required with the Intelli Wrap cuffs on the Omron M3 and M6 models
- When starting out, measure the blood pressure in both arms — if one arm is consistently much higher then use that arm for subsequent measurements
- Take measurements twice a day during the diary — ideally morning and evening
- Take two readings 1 minute apart and document both (if you have an outlying reading it will become obvious in comparison to the general trend)
Take charge of your own blood pressure
Only by understanding your own blood pressure (even better than your doctor) will you be in a position to improve your readings and to understand which interventions are working for you. Your target is a systolic (top number) that is consistently equal to or less than 135mmHg (140mmHg in a medical environment). Anything higher and something needs to improve. For more information see our previous post “Understand your own blood pressure — better than your Doctor”.