The Withings Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor is a device for people who want to measure their blood pressure at home, and keep track of their readings over time. The Food and Drug Administration has approved the device.
The American Heart Association recommends that people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension)monitor their blood pressure at home. This is because home measurements can give doctors a more accurate picture of a patient's blood pressure, and help them see whether a treatment is working. Some people also get nervous when they visit the doctor, which can lead to higher blood pressure readings in a doctor's office, so home measurements can also reveal whether office readings are really accurate.
I'd never been told that I had high blood pressure, and actually had no idea what my blood pressure was, so I tested the device to see what it could tell me.
Design and comfort: ★★★☆☆
The Withings blood pressure monitor has a sleek and simple design. There is one button, which you use to turn the device on. The monitor has a large band (cuff) that's coiled into a cylinder, and you slip your arm through this band to take a measurement. The band has Velcro to adjust the strap if needed. There's also a metal tube, which you position on the front of your arm. During a measurement, the device squeezes your arm quite tightly, and this was a little uncomfortable for me, but that feeling was temporary.
The device is intended for people with an arm circumference between 9 and 17 inches (22 to 42 centimeters). You should not buy the device if your arm circumference is outside of this range, because the readings may not be accurate. For people who do fall into the specified range, the device's readings are accurate within plus or minus 3 mmHg, Withings says.
User friendliness: ★★★★★
I found the blood pressure monitor extremely easy to use. It comes with batteries, so there's no need to charge the device. Once you turn it on, the monitor connects via Bluetooth to your iPhone or Android phone. You'll need to install the Withings Health Mate app, which then launches automatically when you turn the monitor on. A set of instructions pops up to explain how to accurately take a blood pressure measurement.
Value of information: ★★★★☆
As a device intended for health purposes, Withings goes the extra mile to explain your measurements and answer questions you may have about blood pressure.
Before you take a measurement, you can read through an FAQ section by clicking on an information icon near the top of the screen. This section answers questions such as "What is blood pressure?", "What do systolic and diastolic mean?", "What are the recommended values?" and "My results appear abnormal, what should I do?" The section also includes information about how to lower blood pressure.
After you take a measurement, a colored dot — green, yellow or red — appears next to the reading, indicating that your reading indicates optimal or normal blood pressure, mild hypertension, or moderate to severe hypertension. The app includes a chart showing the range of blood pressures that are considered to be normal, mild, severe, etc. (My readings were in the normal range: 118/73). Withings is careful to point out that the standard values it provides, which are those the World Health Organization uses, are based on measurements taken in doctor's offices, but that recent studies also provide an indication of what is considered "high" blood pressure at home.
Withings also lets you know that some individuals should not measure their blood pressure at home, saying that the device may not be accurate in people with irregular heartbeats, or those whose arms are too big or too small for the device.
The device even provides a way to share your blood pressure readings with your doctor, by email or text message.
It was interesting to find out my blood pressure, and reassuring to know my values were in the normal range. Through the app, you can also set an alarm to remind yourself to measure your blood pressure, and a notification will pop up on your phone at the same time each day. This may provide people with extra motivation to measure their blood pressure, and readings are more useful if you track them consistently over time (because a single reading may be influenced by your emotions, diet or other factors.)
Conclusions: 15 out of 20 stars
The Withings blood pressure monitor provides an easy way to measure blood pressure at home, and includes plenty of educational information about blood pressure and what your measurements mean. But it's important to note that you should speak with your doctor about whether home monitoring is right for you before you purchase a monitor.
At $129 to $190 dollars, the Withings blood pressure monitor is more expensive than some other home blood-pressure monitors, which can be in the $50 to $80 range. But the Withings monitor has some advantages, including that it connects wirelessly with your phone, allows you to email results and provides reminders to check your blood pressure.