Hypertension, commonly known as high blood pressure, affects one in three adults in the U.S. (That’s roughly 70 million people.) More and more patients, either those already diagnosed or those at risk, are opting out of the hospital gown and choosing to monitor their blood pressure from home.
I’m not at risk myself. However, like most other red-blooded humans, I am interested in what my body’s up to, and I welcome the opportunity to check the plumbing occasionally. I figured the recent holiday weekend would be the ideal time to test out a new portable blood pressure monitor from Panasonic — specifically because it coincided with the occurrence of The Civil War, the most nerve-wracking game of my alma mater’s college football season.
At first glance, Panasonic’s gadget doesn’t scream “portable” at all. The box in particular seems excessively bulky. But while I may have struggled to get it the three blocks to my car, once the device is out of the box, it’s lighter than it looks and easy to move around, although not exactly small. It comes with only three parts — the main table-top unit, the wireless display, and a battery charger. You simply place your arm through the hole in the mostly plastic, donut-shaped main unit and rest your elbow on the table, palm up. Then, you press “Start.” The cuff inflates and sends infrared signals to the LCD display, which will then show both systolic (the pressure exerted when the heart contracts and pumps blood into the arteries) and diastolic (the pressure exerted when the heart relaxes) pressure, as well as heart rate.
The monitor has a memory of up to 180 readings, and it can store the records of two people. Roughly the size of a smartphone, the display is made to be small enough to carry with you to the doctor. It can give you an average of morning and evening readings and can detect an irregular pulse. And unlike the blood pressure cuffs at the doctor’s office, it doesn’t squeeze so tight that you feel like the bottom half of your arm will never regain feeling.
The monitor’s three-color light system then helps you understand your reading, and shows plainly if you fall into the pre-hypertension, hypertension, or normal range. I watched as my blood pressure dropped from a normal level to a perilous low over a few hours — thanks in part to my team’s 20-point lead, and also the beers I downed nervously during the first half. Don’t worry; it crawled back to a normal, healthy level about an hour later when the game ended and I sobered up.
Panasonic’s at-home blood pressure gadget can be found for around $150 at the usual online retail sites. It’s easy to use, and I can recommend it for anyone who wants to conveniently keep closer tabs on their blood pressure.