High blood pressure can cause stroke, heart attack, and dementia. Keeping track of our blood pressure is important, but testing can be inconvenient. It would be so much easier if smartwatches could track blood pressure, right?
Are there any fitness watches that can measure blood pressure? At this time, two watches can track blood pressure. These are the Omron Heart Guide and the ASUS Vivowatch BP. Cheaper smartwatches claim to track blood pressure, but they are not accurate.
You might wonder why Fitbit, Garmin etc., have not introduced blood pressure smartwatches. Well, as we’ll explore, this technology is very complex and difficult to get right. Omron and ASUS may have managed it, but they’ve had to scrimp on other features.
Blood Pressure Technology
We’ve all had our blood pressure (BP) taken at some point in our lives. The traditional method for BP testing is the cuff method. This is also called the ‘oscillatory method’.
How does this technology work? Well, the cuff is placed around your upper arm. It inflates until enough pressure is exerted on your arteries to stop blood flow. As the cuff deflates, the device measures how quickly blood returns to your arteries. Testing the upper arm is more accurate than testing the wrist or finger because it’s closer to the heart.
So, you can see why a ‘blood pressure smartwatch’ is a big ask. Two companies have managed it, though. The Omron Heart Guide uses traditional oscillatory technology. In contrast, the ASUS Vivowatch BP relies on sensors.
What Is Blood Pressure?
Your blood pressure reading signifies how easy it is for blood to flow around your body. Basically, the higher your blood pressure, the harder it is for blood to flow. For the most part, high blood pressure is caused by blocked, narrowed or damaged arteries.
High blood pressure (or hypertension) can lead to blood clots. As a result, clots can cause dementia, heart attack, kidney disease and stroke.
Do I Need to Track My Blood Pressure?
Interestingly, studies show that monitoring blood pressure at home helps to empower stroke victims.
But we should all keep on eye on our blood pressure – even fitness junkies. This is because studies show that exercising doesn’t necessarily protect us from high blood pressure. So, it’s not just senior citizens and stroke survivors that should track their BP – it’s everyone.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is not fully understood but the following factors play a role:
- Eating too much salt
- Being inactive
- Consuming meat and dairy
As mentioned, anyone can benefit from BP tracking. But if your lifestyle is unhealthy, you may find BP tracking particularly useful.
The Benefits of Blood Pressure Watches
The main issue with conventional blood pressure testing is that it’s inconvenient. Usually, you have to see a doctor or pharmacist to get your blood pressure taken. Having said that, you can buy home-testing kits. But these don’t store your data, so you may end up losing it. In contrast, blood pressure fitness trackers are:
- Portable and convenient so you never miss a BP reading.
- They record and store your BP data in the app, so it’s easier to review with your doctor.
- You’re less likely to forget to take your BP. As a result, you’ll catch potential problems earlier.
- You can measure BP at various points throughout the day. As a result, you’ll get a better understanding of how your lifestyle affects your BP.
With that in mind, here are 2 blood pressure watches that offer convenience and precision.
1. Omron Heart Guide
Omron have been manufacturing cuff-style blood pressure monitors for decades. Last year, they introduced Heart Guide. Crucially, this is the first smartwatch to incorporate traditional cuff-style technology (oscillatory tech).
You can trust this device because it has FDA approval (unheard of in the smartwatch industry). As well as monitoring BP, this watch measures sleep and displays smartphone notifications.
The biggest problem with this watch is its size. So, if you have slim wrists, the Heart Guide may feel heavy and obstructive.
This watch is only available in the USA and Canada. But by 2020, it should be available in the UK, Europe and parts of Asia. In fact, rumour has it that Omron are working hard to reduce the size of the watch before launching it worldwide.
How Does it Work?
Remember we said that traditional BP monitoring uses an inflatable cuff? Well, Omron have incorporated an inflatable cuff into the wrist band of their watch.
So, how does it work? Well, the cuff inflates and places pressure on two arteries in the wrist. As the cuff deflates, BP can be measured.
However, it’s important to say that the BP tracking is not automatic. Instead, you have to tell the device that you want to measure your blood pressure. Once you do this, the watch asks you to place your wrist in front of your heart for 20-30 seconds.
Then, the device syncs your BP readings to the HeartAdvisor App.
- You can check your BP from any location at any time, so the watch offers convenience.
- It tracks fitness and sleep, so you can monitor your overall health.
- While it is not as advanced as some smartwatches, it offers some good basic features (call and text alerts).
- Also, it has a reasonable battery life of 3+ days.
- Comparative to other watches, it is very expensive.
- It would not work as a running watch because it’s too bulky.
- This watch does not offer in-built GPS so you cannot track your routes.
- Despite huge interest in the product, it can be difficult to source in some parts of the world
2. ASUS Vivowatch BP
The ASUS Vivowatch BP is another promising blood pressure watch. It does not have FDA approval, but it appears to deliver accurate results. Unlike the Heart Guide, it does not use oscillatory technology. Instead, it relies on sensors. Some people see this as an inferior technology, and this may explain why it has not achieved FDA approval.
One of the best things about this watch is the accompanying HealthConnect App. This app is very simple to use and provides great insights.
The ASUS Vivowatch BP is difficult to find if you live outside of the US or Canada. Worldwide roll-out is expected at the end of this year or early next year.
How Does It Work?
This watch does not have an inflatable cuff. Instead, it relies on sensor technology and sophisticated algorithms to predict blood pressure. So, how does this work?
Well, the Electricalgraphy (ECG) sensors measure heart rate. And the Photoplethysmography (PPG) sensor measures pulse. When combined, this information calculates your Pulse Transit Time (PTT). PPT can provide an estimate of blood pressure.
Unlike the Heart Guide, blood pressure estimates occur automatically so there’s no need to raise your arm.
- Since this watch relies on sensor technology, it can offer automatic blood pressure estimates.
- It offers 28-days of battery life, so you won’t have ‘charging anxiety’.
- It is small and discreet, so it is an ideal smartwatch for women.
- Compared to similar devices, this watch is reasonably priced.
- Finally, built-in GPS is an added bonus.
- It may be less reliable than the Omron Heart Guide because it does not have FDA backing.
- It is not compatible with all versions of Android, so check before purchasing.
- Presently, it is difficult to source in some parts of the world
Do I Really Need to Track Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure fitness trackers show great potential, but they are not perfect. To be specific, the Omron Heart Guide is expensive and bulky. At the same time, the ASUS is difficult to source and does not have FDA approval. So, are blood pressure watches worth the money?
Well, it depends on how important BP tracking is to you. Certainly, you could overlook these snags if BP tracking is high on your list of priorities. People living with chronic stress or illness will probably benefit from one of these watches. But if this doesn’t apply to you; a BP fitness tracker may be unnecessary.
In fact, many people believe that cheaper fitness trackers are sufficient for tracking health. To be specific, most mid-range trackers measure resting heart rate (RHR). RHR gives a good indication of overall cardiovascular health. Although, as mentioned, people with a good RHR aren’t necessarily immune to high blood pressure.
Ask yourself how important BP monitoring is. If it’s fairly low on your list of requirements, other fitness trackers offer better value for money.