High blood pressure is a growing problem. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people living with hypertension globally has doubled to 1.28 billion since 1990. But the good news is that, thanks to new research and technology, monitoring and managing the condition is now easier than ever.
The emergence of wearable blood pressure monitors has been particularly exciting. Small and discreet, these smartwatch-like devices let you easily track your blood pressure at home, with a range of extra features to help you understand and take control of your health.
So which home blood pressure monitor is best for you? Here, we will compare two wearable devices – the Aktiia and the Omron HeartGuide – to help you decide.
The Omron HeartGuide uses the same components as an inflatable cuff, just in miniature. The device, which looks like a smartwatch or fitness tracker, incorporates an inflatable cuff underneath the wristband to take a traditional blood pressure measurement. You can then track data using the companion app, HeartAdvisor.
Aktiia is a little different. Once a month, you take a traditional blood pressure reading using the supplied cuff. This provides a baseline reading and allows the device to calibrate. After that, the bracelet uses an optical sensor (also known as a PPG or photoplethysmography sensor) to gather data from the arteries under the skin’s surface. The technology analyses the changing diameter of the arteries, plus the pulse waves travelling along them, to estimate blood pressure. The results are then sent to the app on your phone.
Since it works using a traditional cuff, usage instructions for the Omron HeartGuide will already feel familiar. You put the device on your wrist, following the instructions to ensure it’s positioned and tightened correctly, and then press a button to begin the measurement. Hold your wrist level with your heart and remain still until the measurement is taken, when you’ll feel a slight vibration. The results are displayed on the screen as well as fed into the accompanying app.
With Aktiia, the first thing to do is download the Aktiia app, which will guide you through the initialisation process, including wearing the Aktiia bracelet, taking the baseline reading using the cuff and staying still during the measurements. Once the set-up is done, you just wear the bracelet and go about your day. And until you need to take another baseline reading in 30 days’ time, that’s it. Readings are taken automatically 24/7, including as you sleep.
Guidelines from both the European Society of Hypertension and European Society of Cardiology recommend that blood pressure is measured frequently to provide a more accurate representation of hypertension and observe how it responds to treatment.
And this is where the two devices really differ. One of the main benefits of Aktiia is that readings are taken continuously, every 90 minutes during the day and throughout the night. Because it happens automatically, you won’t be worrying about your readings, which may cause blood pressure to rise (the so-called white-coat effect). You don’t need to press a button and you don’t even need to be awake.
That’s another significant benefit: research has shown that your blood pressure at night-time is a better indicator of cardiovascular risk than measurements taken in the day.
With Omron HeartGuide, you decide when to take a measurement. While the device is a lot more portable and convenient than a traditional cuff, it still relies on you taking readings throughout the day.
‘Clinically validated’ means a product has been evaluated by an independent organisation and found to meet the stringent requirements of international organisations such as the British Hypertension Society (BHS), European Society for Hypertension (ESH), and International Protocol (IP).
Both the Aktiia device and the Omron HeartGuide are clinically validated. Aktiia is medically supported by five clinical trials and over 20 peer-reviewed papers, with study results to prove that the solution is as accurate as accepted reference measurements.
As well as measuring blood pressure, the Omron HeartGuide lets you monitor daily activity, track your sleep patterns and set reminders. It’s also compatible with the Omron HeartAdvisor app, which enables you to see trends over time to help you understand how your lifestyle impacts your heart and blood pressure.
Similarly, the frequent blood pressure readings you get with Aktiia help you and your doctor understand more about your condition and develop a more personalised treatment plan, including targeted lifestyle interventions. One particularly useful feature shows you when and for how long your blood pressure was in a healthy range, helping you understand the links between your lifestyle and blood pressure and make positive changes.
Both are worn on the wrist a look a bit like a smartwatch or fitness tracker. The Omron HeartGuide is the bulkier of the two, while the Aktiia is slimmer and lighter. The most significant difference is that Aktiia doesn’t have a screen. This is a plus in terms of the discreet appearance, and could lessen the anxiety some people feel around having their blood pressure taken.
|How it works||Wearable cuff||Optical sensor (PPG)|
|Frequency||User dependent||70+ readings a week|
|View data and trends||✔||✔|
Any device that helps us to better understand and take control of hypertension is an extremely valuable one. Both the Aktiia and Omron wearable devices let you take accurate, frequent blood pressure measurements that are far more convenient than the traditional blood pressure monitor cuff.