How to use a blood pressure monitor

Last reviewed: 20 Jan 2022

Medically Reviewed By: Dr Jay Shah

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Regulating your blood pressure is important to various parts of the body – not just the cardiovascular system, but also the kidneys, eyes, nervous, immune, and digestive systems. Without healthy blood pressure, none of these systems function efficiently, potentially causing serious illnesses.

A way to keep track of your blood pressure is with regular use of a blood pressure monitor. In this guide, we’ll show you how to use one.

Types of blood pressure monitor

There are two main types of blood pressure device that people use:

  • Upper-arm blood pressure monitors (known as sphygmomanometers)
  • Digital wearable blood pressure monitors (worn on the wrist or finger)

Arm cuff devices are traditionally seen in doctors’ offices and come in two forms: manual and digital. Manual sphygmomanometers use a stethoscope and pump to inflate the cuff while digital sphygmomanometers automatically inflate the cuff.

Digital wearable blood pressure monitors work differently as you can wear them on your wrist or finger. In this category, the Aktiia 24/7 Blood Pressure Monitor uses a technology called Optical Blood Pressure Monitoring (OBPM®) that analyses photoplethysmographic (PPG) signals from the wrist to estimate blood pressure.

How does a blood pressure monitor work?

Manual upper-arm blood pressure monitors

Doctors regularly use manual sphygmomanometers to take patients’ blood pressure readings.

The patient sits upright and relaxes the body and an arm cuff is wrapped around the upper arm (around the brachial artery). There needs to be a two-fingers width between the cuff and arm before inflating to ensure an accurate measurement.

The disk of the stethoscope is then slipped under the cuff. The doctor, nurse, or other healthcare provider will then put the earpieces of the stethoscope in their ear and pump air into the cuff.

Once the gauge reaches 30 points above your resting systolic pressure, the applied pressure stops and air is slowly let out. At this time, your systolic pressure is taken as well as your heart rate.

Once the air is completely gone and blood flow returns, your diastolic pressure is taken.

Digital upper-arm blood pressure monitors

The setup for a digital BP monitor is the same but instead of a manual air pump and stethoscope, the device inflates the arm cuff automatically.

This applies pressure to the upper arm before gradually releasing that pressure, allowing blood to flow back into the arteries.

At the point of applied pressure, the monitor’s sensor takes a systolic reading as well as your heartbeat. When the blood flow returns, the monitor takes a diastolic pressure.

All three measurements—systolic, diastolic, and pulse rate—are then displayed on the device’s screen.

Digital wearable blood pressure monitors

Unlike manual and digital arm cuff blood pressure monitors, cuffless wearable devices do not require inflation, apart from calibration and recalibration events.

In the case of Aktiia, readings are taken automatically when you are at rest, and you do not need to be in any particular body position. The advantage is that your blood pressure is monitored on the go and Aktiia is the only blood pressure monitoring solution that allows you to do this.

Upon first receiving the Aktiia product and once a month afterward, you also need to wear the provided inflatable cuff on the upper arm and use the Aktiia app to calibrate your bracelet with the cuff.

Then go about your day and view your readings via the app.

Calibrating your blood pressure monitor

BP monitor calibration means different things for different devices due to how they work.

For upper arm cuffs, if you are using a reputable, clinically validated cuff, regular calibration should be carried out every 2-3 years. Multiple readings can straighten out any issues and if there are any issues, you might consider a different model.

For cuffless wearable blood pressure devices, calibration is a little different as you may need to connect your device with an app or, in the case of Aktiia, the app and an arm cuff. This helps to calibrate measurements from your brachial artery and your wrist/finger.


Before choosing a blood pressure device, speak to your doctor so they can help you find the right monitor for your needs.

You should also ensure your device is clinically validated for accuracy. Aktiia prides itself on its accuracy that meets ISO81060-2 standard and is supported by two clinical trials. For more information, read our Evidence page.

Ultimately, the criteria for choosing a blood pressure device is accuracy. Aktiia’s blood pressure monitor meets this criterion.

Aktiia Team Written by The Aktiia Team

Our mission is to help people live free from hypertension.

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