Regularly checking your blood pressure is important because high readings elevate your risk of developing health problems in the future. This is particularly important as you get older, as the effects of an unhealthy lifestyle can build up over time. If your blood pressure is high, it is putting extra strain on your arteries and your heart which puts you at risk of coronary heart disease, stroke and even death.
Most people check their readings only when they visit a doctor and don’t realise that keeping tabs on their heart health at home is just as important. It is not without reason high blood pressure is sometimes referred to as the ‘silent killer’.
Luckily, keeping a check on your readings is easier than ever thanks to the plethora of smart blood pressure monitors on the market. In addition to taking measurements, these devices do the mundane job of saving them so you have a historical record. Monitoring at home can also help you spot White Coat Hypertention. This is when you readings at a doctors office are much higher than your 24-hour average.
Essential reading: Top smart blood pressure monitors
Braun is a well known consumer products company based in Germany with origins that span back nearly a century. Its recently expanded is range of health and wellness products with two smart blood pressure monitors – the iCheck 7 and the ActivScan 9. Both devices enable you to monitor your heart health at home through a simple colour coded system. The iCheck 7 can be worn on the wrist, while the ActivScan 9 is a more traditional blood pressure monitor that works from the upper arm.
I’ve been testing iCheck 7 over the past few weeks. Here is what I made of it.
The blood pressure monitor arrives in a small box that contains the main unit, 2 x AAA batteries and a little instruction booklet. It does not include any kind of storage case, but you can always save the box for that purpose if you wish.
The device looks fairly smart and sleek, and there is absolutely no clinical feel to it. Measuring only 125 grams it is very lightweight making it ideal for taking readings on the go. There are also no cables to get tangled in as the blood pressure monitor is Bluetooth enabled for over-the-air syncing.
This is a one size all fits affair with a high quality, soft leather cuff that fits wrists with circumstance 12.5 to 21 cm. I found that is slips on easily and rests comfortably against the wrist. It is also pretty quick to inflate.
The gadget is very simple to use and pretty much works like any other blood pressure monitor. So lets get right into it.
There is a round on/off button located right next to the OLED display. Simply tap on this to turn on your iCheck7. But don’t forget to slip 2 x AAA batteries into the battery compartment beforehand. This is enough juice for about 300 tests and you will get a notification once the batteries are approximately 80% empty.
The gizmo is meant for one user only. Although you can use the device on its own, I suggest you install the iOS or Android smartphone app if you want the full benefit. Do a simple search in the app store for the Braun Healthy Heart app, install it, answer a few questions, register with an email account, pair the device via Bluetooth and you are ready to go.
All in all, it only takes a few minutes to set up an account and log in. The additional benefits of using the app are that it allows you to have a permanent historical record of your readings, you can set up reminders, share your results and sync with Apple Health.
At this point its worth pointing out once again that this is a blood pressure monitor that works from your wrist. Because the wrist arteries are narrower and not as deep under your skin as those of the forearm, positioning of such devices is particularly important. To this end Braun has introduced a smart ‘ball in the hole’ positioning system. Basically, this ensures that the monitor is at heart level. Simply move your arm up or down to align the dot with the moving white circle and iCheck 7 will automatically start to inflate when you hit bullseye.
It is also important to keep the cuff about 2cm above your elbow line on the inside of your wrist pointing in the correct direction. In the early days of testing I positioned the device the wrong way a couple of times which resulted in readings that were not accurate. However, once positioned correctly, iCheck 7 never failed to take an accurate reading. Instructions for positioning are also written on the band of the monitor which is helpful if you need a little reminder.
Now sit still with your lower back supported and stay relaxed. It will take only a few seconds for the monitor to do its thing. The display shows the diastolic and systolic blood pressure (measured as standard in mmHg), along with your pulse. If there is a symbol next to the pulse reading, this indicates that irregularities in your heart beat were spotted. This could be due to moving or shaking during measurement, unless it appears frequently in which case it could be an indicator of a bigger problem. Best to consult your doctor then.
If while you are measuring the Health Heart app is open, the readings will automatically sync via Bluetooth. No need to worry if your phone is not around. iCheck 7 shows the readings on the OLED display, and it has on-board memory for up to 100 measurements. Readings can be downloaded to the app at a later stage, at which point they will be deleted from the device.
For every measurement iCheck 7 shows the associated colour (from green to red), indicating whether the values are normal, or if you have mild, moderate or severe hypertension. These are based on the ESH (European Society of Hypertension) and WHO (World Health Organisation) recommended values. The colour coding is useful as it allows you to understand at a glance if you are in the healthy range.
The same colour coding is displayed in the accompanying smartphone app. It is a good idea to take your readings at the same time of day, under the same conditions. This is because blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day and is typically high in the early morning and early afternoon and low at night. I typically take a couple of readings in a row. These are then averaged into one reading for added precision.
For more detailed info, head over to the smartphone app. Here, you can view your a history of your blood pressure in the form of an individual list, calendar or chart.
The app also allows you to provide a bit more lifestyle detail with each reading. This includes diet, exercise, mood, sleep and medication. These added metrics allow you to understand how your lifestyle affects your blood pressure.
Finally, there is an option to export your readings if you want to share them with a doctor or loved one. These are displayed in table format in an email. Simply fill in the ‘To’ field to send. Plus you can set up reading reminders to give you a nudge from time to time.
I found iCheck 7 is extremely easy to use, works seamlessly and is fast to take measurements. This makes it ideal for storing or popping into your bag or suitcase for checking blood pressure on the go. The device is a little finicky about your arm position but this is understandable as correct positioning is important when taking readings from the wrist.
The results are colour coded and stored on the device itself. The Health Heart app is good with the ability to add in other health data and follow the evolution of your readings over time.
This is basically what you want in a blood pressure monitor. A no hassle device that simply does the job and works well. Thumbs up from me. Don’t forget though – while home monitoring of your heart health is important, it is not a substitute for regular visits to your physician.
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