What Phone Apps Let You Check Your Blood Pressure?
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may advise you to check your blood pressure regularly at home. You may also have noticed there are apps available for your smartphone that claim they can monitor your blood pressure, but are they as reliable as a doctor’s blood pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer)?
There are some smartphone apps that can help you monitor your blood pressure, but they cannot actually check blood pressure.
A 2015 study in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension looked at iTunes for Apple phones and Google Play for Android phones for popular apps that monitor blood pressure. In general, the study found the apps to be helpful for tracking blood pressure. Most (72%) were simply types of tracking software in which users manually entered blood pressure readings to track over time.
Other helpful features of many of the apps included:
- Manual input of information on heart rate, salt intake, weight, exercise and other factors that can impact heart health
- Reminders to take blood pressure medications or to check blood pressure and input data for tracking
- Ability to send information directly to the user’s physicians
However, a few apps -- all for Android phones – claimed they could “measure” the user’s blood pressure by reading the pulse of the user’s finger held against the phone’s camera lens or screen. Currently, phone apps cannot actually check a person’s blood pressure. This is where the claims of these apps can be harmful, since there is no evidence this technology is accurate or viable. It is being developed but it is not ready for consumer use.
What Should I Look for in a Blood Pressure App for My Phone?
The study’s lead author, Nilay Kumar, MD, an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and hospitalist with Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts, discourages patients from using blood pressure apps that claim to “measure” blood pressure. Dr. Kumar emphasizes this technology is still in development and is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as accurate and safe.
For the greatest benefit from smartphone blood pressure apps, Dr. Kumar recommends patients first purchase a validated cuff-style home blood pressure device, and then choose an app with the following features:
- Blood pressure tracking
- Use a cuff-style home blood pressure device to measure blood pressure at home, and manually enter the information
- This ensures all information is available in one place and easily retrievable for doctor’s visits
- Export of information
- Apps that can send information directly to the user’s physicians are helpful
- Doctors can provide immediate feedback and can be better prepared for appointments
- Medication-adherence tools
- Patients who do not take medications regularly as prescribed have nearly four times the risk of having fatal strokes as people who take medications as directed
- Apps that remind patients to take blood pressure-lowering medications can be lifesaving