Many of my clients are interested in monitoring their blood pressure with monitors at home. Therefore, I’ve been asked many times about the various kinds, including wrist monitors. The most popular question often asked is, what are the pros and cons of wrist blood pressure monitors?
The pros of wrist blood pressure monitors are they can measure BP when a person is incapable of using an upper arm monitor due to mobility, a conical shaped or large diameter upper arm. The cons are the wrist artery is different than the upper arm artery making the measurement less reliable.
This article will list each pro and con about wrist monitors and explain them in more detail. In addition, I’ll include a crucial tip which will increase the accuracy of your wrist monitor.
BP Tip: You probably know most home monitors have an app where your measurements are stored. Were you aware, you can email them to your physician straight from the app? The wrist monitor I recommend has this feature. Check it out in my blog post review by clicking here, Wrist Monitor.
Disclaimer: This post may have some affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Pros and Cons Of Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors
6 Pros of Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors
1. A wrist monitor can measure BP when a person is incapable of using an upper arm monitor due to mobility.
This may occur for a few reasons including:
- An injury to the shoulder, collar bone or arm makes it impossible to wrap an upper arm cuff around the upper arm.
- After surgery a person may not have the mobility to move their arm to use an upper arm cuff.
- Any other possible reason why the arm or shoulder movement is limited preventing a person to wrap a cuff around the upper arm.
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2. A wrist monitor is a good alternative when the upper arm is conical shaped.
The upper arm is not perfectly round like a cylinder. Typically, it is larger in circumference near the shoulder than the elbow. Most of the time this doesn’t cause any difficulties using an upper monitor.
Some people’s upper arm may be more out of round than others. When this occurs, it is called a conical shaped upper arm. Because of its shape, an upper arm cuff cannot wrap around effectively to measure blood pressure 1.
As the cuff inflates around a conical arm, it doesn’t compress the arm evenly. This takes longer to cut off the blood flow in the arm necessary to measure blood pressure. This makes the cuff inflate longer and causes more squeezing. In addition, the measurement may be inaccurate.
With a conical shaped upper arm, a wrist monitor can be a good alternative. This is so because the common home upper arm monitors don’t come with cuffs made for conical shaped arms.
Although they do sell aneroid sphygmomanometer cuffs for conical shaped, extra large arms. They are the same ones used in a doctor’s office with a stethoscope.
Amazon sells one made by American Diagnostic Corporation which is a reputable company. It fits upper arms from 17.3″ to 25.98″. Check it out on Amazon here, ADC BP cuff.
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3. A large diameter upper arm is too big for a traditional cuff.
Just like a conical shaped arm, it’s difficult to find home upper arm monitors with a cuff large enough for an extra large arm. Although it’s somewhat easier 2.
I have found three home monitors with cuffs for extra large arms. Two of them fits upper arms over 20″ in circumference. I wrote a blog post about it which you can check out here, Home Blood Pressure Monitors For Large Arms.
If your upper arm is over 23.6″ it seems you have three choices.
- A wrist blood pressure monitor.
- Using an aneroid sphygmomanometer specifically made for extra large upper arms. They are similar to the ones used at the physician’s office with a stethoscope. They sell some on Amazon here, aneroid sphygmomanometers.
- If your upper arm is conical shaped, an aneroid sphygmomanometer made for that purpose.
If you’re using an aneroid sphygmomanometer because of a large upper arm, I recommend having a wrist monitor also. The main reason is because of its portability and checking your BP out of the home. This leads me to the next pro on my list.
4. Portability and compact design.
Wrist blood pressure monitors are very small, lightweight and easy to pack or carry around. This is extremely helpful in the following situations:
- While traveling you want to monitor your blood pressure.
- Easy to pack for traveling because it’s compact.
- You live part of the week in another residence or visiting family on the weekends. It’s easy to transport the monitor from one home to the other.
- The compact design makes it easy to bring to your job if you want to check your BP while at work.
Pros and cons is just one topic covered about wrist monitors and upper arm monitors in my article, Home Blood Pressure Monitors – Things To Know. Check out why wrist monitors give higher or lower readings.
5. When older people are frail a wrist monitor is more comfortable.
There are times when the squeezing of the blood pressure cuff becomes uncomfortable for an elderly person. This may even cause anxiety just before the measurement which can raise blood pressure 3.
If the person’s pressure is monitored multiple times a day, using a wrist monitor for some of them can help alleviate some of the discomfort. It’s always beneficial to check the wrist monitor for accuracy and compare the readings to a reliable upper arm monitor.
The less time it takes the cuff to inflate is one of the reasons why I use and recommend the fastest upper arm home monitor on the market. It inflates and takes the pressure in only 20 seconds. Check out my review post here, Welch Allyn 1700 Series Home Blood Pressure Monitor.
The better quality wrist blood pressure monitors have the same bells and whistles as an upper arm monitor 4. Although compact, they may have the following:
- Connected phone apps.
- Multiple users.
- Heart height indicator. This is especially important for a wrist monitor which is explained in the Cons section below.
- Built in memory.
- Carry case.
- Systolic and diastolic blood pressure, plus pulse rate.
Cons of Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors
1. The wrist artery is different than the upper arm artery.
A wrist monitor measures blood pressure at the wrist’s radial artery 5. An upper arm monitor measures at the brachial artery in the upper arm. Why does this matter?
- The radial artery is more narrow than the brachial artery.
- The radial artery is closer to the surface of the skin than the brachial artery.
- For this reason, the measurements can be higher.
2. Studies have shown inaccurate measurements compared to upper arm monitors.
A study in the Journal Of Clinical Hypertension 6 found significant differences between the arm and wrist when blood pressure measurements were taken on 261 people. Many patients had a difference of systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings of 5 or 10 mm Hg or more between the wrist and upper arm.
3. It’s more difficult to line up a wrist cuff at heart height.
Regardless of the cuff used, wrist or upper arm, the cuff must be at the same height as the right atrium of the heart. This is crucial and can give false readings if it’s not accomplished.
There is less room for error with an upper arm cuff compared to a wrist cuff because the upper arm is almost naturally at heart level. To line up a wrist cuff there’s more arm movement involved. In addition, it’s easier to move the forearm up and down while measuring the pressure 7.
4. The American Heart Association does not recommend using one.
Since a wrist monitor yields less reliable measurements, the American Heart Association does not recommend using one under typical circumstances 8.
Read More – BP Monitor Related Articles!
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- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Rectangular Cuffs May Overestimate Blood Pressure in Individuals With Large Conical Arms
- Journal Hypertension: Blood pressure measurement in very obese patients: a challenging problem
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: The role of wrist monitors to measure blood pressure in older adults
- A&D Medical: Which BP Monitor is Right for Me – Wrist or Upper Arm?
- BCcampus: Nerves, Blood Vessels and Lymph
- Wiley Online Library: Does “Hidden Undercuffing” Occur Among Obese Patients? Effect of Arm Sizes and Other Predictors of the Difference Between Wrist and Upper Arm Blood Pressures
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Poor Reliability of Wrist Blood Pressure Self-Measurement at Home: A Population-Based Study
- The American Heart Association: Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home