Looking for a gift that keeps on giving all year long? If you have a loved one with hypertension or is at risk for it, consider giving a home blood pressure monitor.

In our tests of 25 blood pressure monitors, performance varied greatly, but you can find a recommended model for as little as $40.

High blood pressure is more common than you may think. About one in every three people has it, including about 65 percent of people 60 and older. According to the American Heart Association, those with hypertension or suspected high blood pressure should routinely monitor themselves. 

"People with hypertension should check their blood pressure at least twice a week at about the same time of day, and as often as twice a day if there are any problems or if their treatment has changed," says Consumer Reports' chief medical adviser, Marvin M. Lipman.

"Checking blood pressure at home is one way of making sure that your treatment is adequate," he says.

That's important because when not well-controlled, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems.

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Who Needs Monitoring?

Anyone with hypertension can benefit from a home blood pressure monitor, but they can be especially helpful for:

  • Older people, whose blood pressure tends to be more variable. Frequent monitoring will provide an overall picture of their true numbers.
  • People who experience "white-coat hypertension," a spike in blood pressure when they are tested in a doctor's office or hospital.
  • People with diabetes, for whom blood pressure control is important.

What to Look For

In our ratings of home blood pressure monitors, we assess accuracy, convenience, and comfort.

Many models offer specialized features. For example, the highly rated Rite Aid Deluxe Automatic BP3AR1-4DRITE, $60, has a large-digit display, and the ReliOn (Wal-Mart) BP200 HEM741CRELN, $40, allows multiple users to store readings separately. Both are Best Buys.

Other features to consider are an irregular-heartbeat detector, a risk-category indicator, multiple cuffs (to accommodate different-sized arms), memory download capability, and a data averaging function.