Monitoring your blood pressure at home remains a crucial part of maintaining your health. This will provide you and your physician with necessary information to help with your treatment plan. To achieve this effectively, your home monitor has to maintain its accuracy. This leads to the question, how often should home blood pressure monitors be calibrated?
Home blood pressure monitors should be calibrated when they are no longer accurate. Some manufacturers recommend calibration every two years, while others don’t require it at all. You should check with the manufacturer of your monitor to identify what they recommend.
How would you know if your monitor is no longer accurate? This post will inform you how to check it for accuracy and how often. In addition, I’ll let you know how to find out if your monitor manufacturer requires calibration. The monitor I own doesn’t require it, which is one of the numerous reasons why I recommend it. You can check it out in my post here, The Home Blood Pressure Monitor I recommend.
BP Tip: You can lower BP naturally by changing how you breathe. There’s a device approved by the FDA and The American Heart Association. It guides your breathing a few minutes a day which has been proven to lower BP. You can check it out in the manufacturer’s website by clicking here.
Home Blood Pressure Monitor Calibration
If your monitor remains accurate, there is no need to get it calibrated. The next section of this article below explains how to check it for accuracy.
Some manufacturers, like Omron, states in their website, they recommend home or personal monitors to be recalibrated every two years 1. Welch Allyn, states in their manual, the monitor doesn’t require calibration 2.
If your monitor needs to be calibrated, you can check your manufacturer’s website for instructions on contacting their service department. Sometimes, if the monitor is still under warranty, there may not be a charge for the service.
Don’t forget, when you send your monitor in for calibration, you’ll be without a monitor for a length of time. Under unusual circumstances a manufacturer may send you a loaner while they service yours. In addition to the manufacturer, there are other companies out there who can calibrate your monitor. It’s my recommendation to use the manufacturer because they are more familiar with your machine than anybody. Also, those other companies typically service commercial products made for hospitals and not for home use.
It’s best to buy a high quality home monitor that doesn’t require calibration, like the Welch Allyn 1700 Series.
Check Accuracy For Calibration
The American Medical Association recommends having your home monitor checked for accuracy once a year 3. The best way to have it checked for accuracy is to bring it to your physician. They can check it against their typical mercury sphygmomanometer or comparable device they use.
Don’t allow them to rush this process as it’s very important. Secretly, they may not like doing it because it creates a little extra work on their part and extends their time with you. Don’t feel funny about asking them. It’s not an unusual request and it’s your health! When your monitor is new, I would take it to your first physician visit and have it checked even though the machine is not yet a year-old.
The following is the recommended procedure for checking:
- Five blood pressure measurements should be taken.
- All the measurements should be on the same arm.
- The first two measurements should be taken with your home monitor.
- The third measurement with their device.
- The fourth measurement with your monitor.
- The fifth one with their device.
Typically, the readings will decline from the first measurement to the fifth. In the beginning, the first measurement is higher because you’re not as relaxed or haven’t had 5 minutes of the recommended quiet time. Check my blog post on how to prepare for all your BP measurements, First Blood Pressure Reading Always High.
A slight difference between your monitor and theirs is normal. A difference up to 5 mmHg or less is acceptable. If the difference is greater than 5 mmHg, your monitor should be calibrated. The manufacturers claim to have accuracy within a range. The following are three company claims for accuracy:
- Welch Allyn: Their 1700 Series claims accuracy within +/- 3 mmHg and pulse within +/- 4%.
- Omron: Their 10 series claims accuracy within +/- 3 mmHg and pulse within +/- 5%.
- Greater Goods: Their monitor claims accuracy within +/- 3 mmHg and pulse within +/- 5%.
The 6 steps listed above are the only correct way to check your monitor for accuracy and calibration. Checking your blood pressure at home after a doctor’s visit and comparing it to their reading is unreliable. The time of day, environment and circumstances have changed. The comparison must be made at the same time in the office.
Even if only 30 minutes have passed, blood pressure will fluctuate constantly throughout the day 4. Did you know having a full bladder can increase your BP by 10 to 15 mmHg higher? The time of day can change your pressure 10 to 20%. You can check out more of these stats in the next post right below.
Don’t Get False BP Readings Confused With Calibration
In addition to fluctuating blood pressure, false readings may make you think your monitor is in need of a calibration when it doesn’t. Fortunately, there are steps you can take which can prevent these readings and give you a clearer picture of your actual blood pressure. The following are possible causes:
- Wrapping the cuff over a long sleeve shirt.
- A cuff too small or large for your arm circumference.
- Wrapping the cuff too tight or loose.
- Incorrect cuff height compared to your heart.
- Incorrect cuff location on your arm.
- The wrong body position or crossing of the legs.
- Only measuring one time instead of three.
In my blog post, Causes of False Blood Pressure Readings, I tackle each one of these 7 causes above in detail and inform you how to avoid making them yourself.
If you found this Blood Pressure topic interesting check out these related blood pressure articles also found in this same website:
- Blood Pressure Cuff Placement
- Causes Of False Blood Pressure Readings
- Checking Blood Pressure Too Often
How often should a home blood pressure monitor be replaced? Home blood pressure monitors should be replaced when they lose their accuracy. Your physician’s office can compare your monitor to their device for accurate readings. In addition to accuracy, a home monitor should be replaced if the cuff does not fit your arm anymore and it is unable to be changed.
- Omron: Frequently asked questions
- Welch Allyn: Home Blood Pressure Monitor Manual
- American Medical Association: How To Check A Home Blood Pressure Monitor For Accuracy
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Understanding short-term blood pressure variability phenotypes: from concept to clinical practice