There are few ways to monitor your blood pressure at home. The most popular is using an upper arm monitor while some people use a wrist monitor instead. The second option may have you wondering, why use a wrist blood pressure monitor?
A wrist blood pressure monitor should be used if your upper arm circumference is too large or conically shaped. Another reason is a mobility limitation which makes it physically unpossible to wrap a blood pressure cuff around your upper arm. In addition, an upper arm cuff may be painful for a more elderly, frail person.
This blog post will dive into each reason in complete detail. In addition, if you’re using a wrist monitor, there’s a common mistake many people are making resulting in false readings. I’ll tell you how to correct it and other wrist monitor tips.
BP Tip: You probably already 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?
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.
The following are three reasons why you should use a wrist blood pressure monitor.
Conical Shaped Upper Arm
A conical shaped arm is not round like a cylinder. Everyone’s upper arm is not perfectly round, but some may be more out of round than others. When the conical shape is more pronounced, a wrist cuff is the better choice.
An upper arm cuff cannot wrap evenly around a conical arm which makes it less accurate 1. As it inflates, it doesn’t compress the upper arm evenly. This makes it inflate longer to stop the blood flow. The result is a more uncomfortable blood pressure measurement because the cuff inflates for a longer time and squeezes more than it should.
In addition, your blood pressure measurement will be higher. This situation makes a wrist monitor the better choice and more accurate. This is different from when your upper arm is the typical shape. Wrist monitors have a reputation for being more inaccurate but many times it’s the person’s fault.
I wrote a whole blog post on the topic which you may want to check out by clicking here, Wrist Blood Pressure Monitors Accuracy
Obese or Large Diameter Upper Arm
Although you don’t have to be obese to have a conically shaped arm, an obese arm can make the upper arm a conical shape as mentioned above 2. A wrist blood pressure monitor would be the better choice.
In addition, an obese arm can have extra fat disproportionately distributed. There may be more fat down near the elbow which makes it difficult for the upper arm cuff to wrap around evenly. In this situation the cuff would be squeezing more near the elbow and not enough towards the top part of the cuff.
It can be the opposite, where there is more fat near the shoulder area than the elbow. The cuff wouldn’t be able to squeeze evenly closer to the elbow.
Sometimes, the extra fat in an obese arm is evenly distributed, but the total circumference of the arm is too big for the cuff. Shopping for the correct size cuff can correct this issue, if you can find one big enough for your size arm.
Before you shop or purchase a cuff make sure of two things. First, measure your arm and make sure the cuff is made for your size arm. Second, make sure your monitor has the ability to change cuffs.
Larger size upper arm cuffs are difficult to find but some monitors offer them as an option. The home monitor I recommend has cuff options up to 21.25″, check out my review by clicking here.
In addition, if you don’t require a new monitor, check out these large size cuffs available on Amazon by clicking here, extra large BP cuffs. Bodybuilders are another situation where an upper arm may be too big. The muscular arm may be too big for a standard cuff and require the use of a wrist monitor.
Reasons to use a wrist monitor is just one of 18 topics discussed in my article about home monitors. Learn everything you need to know about them here, Home Blood Pressure Monitors – Things To Know.
Older People Who Are Frail
Sometimes measuring blood pressure on the upper arm of older, frail people is uncomfortable. The squeezing can be annoying for a healthy person, so it’s quite understandable. In addition, the anticipated un comfort just prior to the measurement may cause anxiety 3.
In this situation, a wrist cuff may be the better option. The upper arm cuff I use has the shortest inflation time of any home monitor on the market. For everyone, the shorter inflation time the better. The Welch Allyn 1700 Series Home Blood Pressure Monitor, measures your blood pressure in approximately 20 seconds.
This is when wrapping a blood pressure cuff around your upper arm is impossible. The following are reasons why this may occur.
- Post surgery: Shoulder or similar surgery may make it impossible for your arms to move into the proper position to wrap the cuff around your upper arm.
- An injury: Depending on the kind of injury, raising or moving your arm away from your torso may be impossible. Or if it is possible, it may cause pain to move it, which can create stress or raise your heart rate.
- Any possible reason why the upper arms cannot be moved enough to allow an upper arm cuff.
Mistakes Using A Wrist Monitor
When you have one of the reasons to use a wrist blood pressure monitor, often mistakes are made. Some of them are not breaking the habits of using an upper arm cuff. The most common one is keeping your arm in the same position as you would for an upper cuff measurement. This places the wrist cuff far below heart level which makes your measurement higher 4.
Another common mistake is not supporting your arm during the measurement 5. An unsupported arm can make your measurements higher. This makes you keep your muscle more tense than it should.
Just like an upper arm cuff, a wrist cuff must be the proper size for your wrist. Typically, this doesn’t occur as often with the wrist, but it can happen. Always measure your wrist and compare it to the size range listed for the wrist monitor you’re thinking of buying 6.
BP Tip: Did you know you can lower BP naturally by changing how you breathe a few times a day? There’s a device approved by the FDA and The American Heart Association gave it the thumbs up. It simply guides your breathing for you a few minutes a day which has been proven to lower blood pressure. You can check it out in the manufacturer’s website by clicking here.
Wrapping Up The Wrist Blood Pressure Cuff
Home monitoring is extremely important. If for some reason you cannot use an upper arm cuff, don’t hesitate to use a wrist blood pressure monitor. Even if you currently don’t have a reason to use one, it’s an excellent idea to own one anyway. You’ll never know when you may need one and this way you’ll have one on hand, or should I say wrist.
Read Next – More Blood Pressure Monitor Articles!
- 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
- Omron Healthcare: How to Measure Blood Pressure
- American Medical Association: Using a wrist cuff to measure blood pressure
- National Center for Biotechnology Information: Poor Reliability of Wrist Blood Pressure Self-Measurement at Home: A Population-Based Study