How to Use a Blood Pressure Monitor

What to look for when you're buying a device, and expert tips for getting accurate results

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person taking blood pressure at home Photo: Getty Images

 Only about half of the 75 million adults in the U.S. with high blood pressure have the condition under control, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Along with diet, exercise, and, if appropriate, medication, here’s an additional strategy to consider: daily home blood pressure monitoring.

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A 2010 systematic review from the independent Cochrane Collaboration found that self-monitoring led to lower systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) numbers in people with high blood pressure. Your doctor may also recommend a home monitor to help diagnose hypertension in the first place, because some people’s levels in the doctor’s office are different from those in everyday life.

At Consumer Reports we test home blood pressure monitors for accuracy, comfort, and more. Here’s how to pick the right product for you and use it properly.

How We Test

To evaluate accuracy, our trained testers take the blood pressure of volunteers with both a home blood pressure monitor and a mercury sphygmomanometer—considered the gold standard of testing—and compare the results.

Panelists also rate monitors for comfort, and our lab technicians evaluate each device for convenience factors—clarity of the display, size of the buttons, and how easy it is to use.

Pick Your Monitor

When it comes to accuracy, our tests have found that devices with arm cuffs tend to perform better than those with wrist cuffs, which can be slightly more challenging to use correctly. But wrist cuffs tend to score better than arm cuffs on comfort.

Fit is important, too. The cuff should fit comfortably around your upper arm or wrist; one that’s too loose or too tight can skew results. So measure the circumference of your upper arm or wrist, and choose one labeled for that measurement.

Several models we’ve tested come with added features, such as an irregular heartbeat monitor. You may want to ask your doctor whether this could benefit you. Another is the ability to store data for two people, helpful if you and your partner plan to use the device.

Consider these recommended home blood pressure monitors from our tests.

Get the Right Results

Bring the monitor you’ve purchased to your doctor’s office so that your care team can make sure you’re using it properly and check whether its results match those of the office monitor. (If it doesn't, you may need a different home device.) The American Heart Association recommends you do this once a year.

Below, find our tips for getting the most accurate reading. To reveal each tip on the illustration, hover your cursor over the black dots (or tap on a mobile device).

Click dots to learn more.

Editor’s Note: A version of this article also appeared in the January 2019 issue of Consumer Reports On Health. The interactive graphic was adapted from the February 2021 issue of Consumer Reports On Health.

Model: Sue BoothPhotographer: John Walsh

Susan Booth

I am a senior project leader for Consumer Reports, overseeing the testing of vacuum cleaners, sunscreens, and home medical devices.