Having been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes in 2011, it quickly became apparent that I would now be on some sort of lifelong roller coaster of medical appointments and never ending check ups. So it was only a matter of time before my blood pressure started getting looked at more closely. As the sort of bloke that never went to the doctors for anything, this new found medical condition really sucked, especially if like me you have a touch of white coat syndrome or “white coat hypertension” as its known in medical circles. Whereby the very thought of seeing the doc or nurse sends blood pressure soaring into the “above normal” range.
Anyway, to cut a long story short during my latest diabetes “review” my blood pressure was taken and as is normal for me, it was abnormal (or in the pre-hypertension range to be precise). I must confess its always been that way – whenever I visit the surgery or hospital – but it was decided that under the circumstances (ideally I need to be under 140/80) purchasing a blood pressure monitor would be a good idea to keep an eye on things before heading off down the pills route.
I’ve never been overly concerned about my blood pressure as I’m active and not overweight (I gave up smoking a long time ago, though I do use e-cigs!). I just get wound up when I visit medical establishments.
Browsing online it quickly became apparent there is a good selection of monitors out there. The docs used the Japanese brand Omron so I took a closer look at these. One that caught my eye was the Omron R7. This is a wrist style monitor and while “they” say they are not as accurate as upper arm monitors they are “probably” good enough to keep an eye on fluctuations. That was good enough for me!
The reason I liked the R7 was because it looked like a watch (albeit a big-ish one) and I love watches. It also had a graph function and a 90 record memory and as it comes in its own protective plastic clam shell case that can be taken just about anywhere, thus making it ideal for testing on the go. Its all self contained unlike the upper arm devices that are more bulky (cuff, air tube plus device). Its “clinically validated” and approved by the British Hypertension Society (always a good thing) and uses something called IntelliSense which stands for intelligent inflation and pulse sensing technology (don’t you just love tech jargon!).
The unit arrived and I was surprised at how small it was – 78 (W) x 65.5 (H) x 37.2 (D) mm, not including the wrist cuff (wrist size 13.5-21.5 cm). The large LCD display dominates and is framed beneath and to the right by five function buttons. These are pretty self explanatory. The “M” button recalls the internal memory; the “Graph” button selects the memory stats in a dynamic graphical display; the large blue “O/I” button turns the unit on/off, the arrow buttons select options and scrolls through memory/graph data and the “Set” button is for settings.
Before the unit arrived I downloaded the PDF manual (see link at bottom of this review) so I didn’t even need to peruse the enclosed literature to set it up. Set the time, date and which wrist you’d like to use. If you are going to share the monitor with another family member select Auto Memory (AM) to OFF. If you are the only user select ON and that way you’ll be able to review past tests and graphs.
In practice and to ensure accuracy make sure your posture is optimized. The Omron R7 uses an Advanced Position Sensor (APS) and the unit will only operate when it is in the correct position. The diagram below explains this. Basically you need to sit down and place the monitor on your wrist, tighten the cuff (but not too tight). Say for example the R7 is on your left wrist (which also needs to be set in the settings menu), you then place your arm across your chest so that the monitor is level with your heart and your left hand resting on your right shoulder. Your right hand should support your left elbow loosely. Relax… breathe in and out a few times, don’t talk and sit still. Press the “O/I” button and if all is correct the unit should start to auto inflate and shortly thereafter should give your blood pressure and heart rate in BPM. If the monitor is in the wrong position it won’t auto inflate and positioning should be readjusted accordingly.
When you have a reading press the arrow buttons and each measurement is displayed full screen which is particularly good for users with poor sight.
There are two alarms to remind you to take your blood pressure. The alarm function can be used to monitor your blood pressure at the same time every day or as a reminder for pills. The alarm sounds for 2 minutes – to turn off press the “O/I” button.
The historical graph feature displays all systolic, diastolic, BPM, date and time readings (the latest record always flashes – scroll previous records via the arrow keys and then press “M”) and also specific morning and night readings – as long as they were taken between 00:00-09:59 and 18:00-23:59 respectively. The day segment is between 10:00-17:59 and doesn‘t have a dedicated screen. When systolic readings are recorded above 170 mmHg/millimetres of mercury (twice) an arrow symbol is displayed above the reading.
A missing feature I would have liked to have seen included would be an average of all readings. This would be very useful. Personally, I record my data in a spreadsheet to ascertain monthly averages so it wasn’t a deal breaker. A subtle EL backlight (for a bit of BP ambience!) would be welcomed too, but I imagine it’d drain the batteries too quickly.
The R7 can also utilise an Omron Printer (via an optional USB cable and no it isn‘t a standard mini USB, so it is a costly option) and apparently this does print off all relevant data and averages. In addition, dedicated Omron Blood Pressure Management software can be used (see link at bottom for software download).
The unit is powered by 2 AAA/LR03 batteries which have an approximate life expectancy of 300 tests per set (based on 3 tests per day).
So far I’m impressed. It’s a very easy device to use and the display is crisp and sharp. Added benefits are the huge 90 record memory and graph. Time will tell. Remember, never self diagnose a problem. These home devices are very useful tools and surprisingly accurate, but comparisons with your readings and those taken in a medical environment are vital in the long term care of blood pressure issues. Always seek professional guidance if you are in any doubt about your blood pressure readings, good, bad or indifferent.
For more detailed information: Wikipedia – Blood Pressure
A more sophisticated model is available to our American friends here: