Now you can check your blood pressure using your iPhone or iPad with two products that make it easy — download an app onto your iOS device, put on a blood pressure cuff, tap the touchscreen, and soon you have a blood pressure reading that you can track every day. They’re quick and reasonably priced, but are they accurate?
For my tests, I pitted the iHealth BP3 for iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad against the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor, which also works with the iPod Touch, iPhone and iPad. Our family doctor’s been taking blood pressure readings for 30 years, so I figured he’d be a good one to give me his opinion about these devices. So I took both units to his office and comparing their readings with that of an old-fashioned manual blood pressure cuff in his skilled hands.
Like a conventional BP cuff, it's secured to the arm with Velcro.
With an iPad 2
In addition to the iPhone app, there's a free iPad app available.
iPad and iPad 2 both fit.
Works with iPhone
Press Start to begin.
It's a charging station.
That's a USB connector to charge the dock and your iOS device, too
There's the port for the air hose.
iHealth iPhone app
Clean interface, great graphic features, and you can share your results on Twitter and Facebook, as well as email.
This $99 iHealth BP3 blood pressure monitor also functions as a charging dock. I tested it with an iPad, iPad 2 and an iPhone 4, all of which fit easily into this attractive desktop unit. You plug the air hose into the side of the dock, and the other end is permanently attached to the blood pressure cuff.
The doctor showed me the proper way to use a blood pressure cuff, placing it about an inch above the elbow, and after touching the start button, the iHealth was doing its work, making a subdued whirring sound. Take a look at the video below that compares the two test units, and you’ll get an idea of how they work — they feel just like any other blood pressure cuff, and for this iHealth unit, the whole process took only 31 seconds seconds for each test.
The free iHealth app looks great on the iPad and iPhone. It displays systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings as well as pulse in beats per minute. I especially like its graphing feature, which works in both portrait and landscape mode, showing you the history of blood pressure readings over time. I also like the way it can share blood pressure readings via email, but I’m not sure I’d want to opt for its other capabilities: sharing on Facebook or Twitter.
After two tests on each arm (with a bit of waiting in between for blood vessels to go back to their normal state), the blood pressure readings were all in the same range of around 120/80. While none of the readings were exactly alike, all were within the margin of error of the traditional blood pressure cuff used by the doctor. The doctor called iHealth “accurate,” and especially liked the way the dock held the iPhone at an easily viewed angle. He also liked the iHealth’s blood pressure cuff, commenting that he thought it was more comfortable than the other one we tested from Withings. Here’s a video of both units in action:
An added advantage of the iHealth BP3 is its ability to function as a dock even when you’re not using it to measure blood pressure. Plug its included cable into the AC adapter included with iOS devices, and you have yourself a sleek-looking charging station. The dock itself also needs to be charged, so it can perform its blood pressure measurement duties without the necessity of being near a power outlet. The upside of that? It runs on its own power, and doesn’t use power from the iPhone or iPad. The makers of iHealth say it’ll run for 100 tests on a charge. Neat.
Withings Blood Pressure Monitor
It's a self-contained unit, but relys on battery power from an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch.
Secured to the arm with Velcro
Plug in the dock connector, and it's ready to go.
The flexible cuff is more rigid and not quite as comfortable as the iHealth's cuff.
Ready for Testing
Here it is with an iPhone 4.
It's easy to place on the arm and well designed.
Withings iPhone App
Here's the readout after a test. I like the way you can combine blood pressure readings with weight and body fat measurements from the Withings Wi-Fi scale
This $129 Withings Blood Pressure Monitor is a self-contained unit, with the universal dock connector that plugs into an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch. Its blood pressure cuff is more rigid, making it slightly less comfortable than the iHealth, but a little easier to manage when you’re placing it on your arm.
When you first connect the unit to your iOS device, you’re prompted to download the free Withings app. Because I already use a Withings Wi-Fi scale, I already had the app on my iPhone and iPad, and I immediately realized the advantage Withings has here: On a single graph, you can see daily measurements of your weight and body fat percentage delivered by Wi-Fi, along with your blood pressure readings from this blood pressure device. You can email all that data to your doctor or caretaker, too. This e-medicine routine gives you an idea of what the remote health care of the future might be like.
As I did with the iHealth BP3, the doctor and I performed three separate blood pressure readings on each arm (each test taking 35 seconds to complete, 4 seconds slower than the iHealth), and compared those the readings taken by the doctor using the traditional blood pressure cuff. All the readings from the Withings unit were within the same range as the blood pressure cuff and the iHealth BP3. The doctor proclaimed it equally accurate, but thought the Withings self-contained blood pressure cuff was bulkier and less comfortable than the iHealth’s, and thought the way the connector plugged into the iPhone and iPad (without that dock used in the iHealth) made the screen less convenient to operate and view.
As you saw in the video above, the Withings system offers its results on a nicely designed app that shows the systolic and diastolic blood pressure readings as well as heart rate. The Withings app also allows its readings to be shared on Facebook and Twitter, and has the added advantage of connecting with Microsoft HealthVault and GoogleHealth, allowing you to keep all of your health records in one place.
Which is best? Both units are easy to use, accurate, and work well. If you don’t already have a charging dock for your iPad or iPhone, the iHealth would be a better choice, and at $99.95, it’s a better overall value. If you already have a Withings Wi-Fi scale, you might want to choose the Withings blood pressure monitor (even though it costs $29.05 more than the iHealth BP3), so you can coordinate your weight and body fat measurements with your blood pressure readings and see them all on one graph together.
Best of all, neither of these units require a stethoscope and medical training to use and are reasonably priced (especially if you already have an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch), giving you daily readings of your blood pressure that might make you aware of a previously unknown condition, and perhaps even save your life.