According to the CDC, nearly half of adults in the United States (108 million, or 45%) have hypertension and only about 1 in 4 have their condition under control.
Many people do not show any symptoms of high blood pressure; that is why it’s crucial to have blood pressure checked regularly. The conventional method of measuring blood pressure is a blood pressure monitor cuff or, also known as a sphygmomanometer. However, using a blood pressure cuff isn’t convenient for many and it requires hands-on knowledge.
The advent of wearable technology has made blood pressure monitoring easy. There are a number of different wearables and fitness trackers that claim to be able to use a PPG sensor to track your blood pressure. However, many of these devices aren’t certified as medical devices but instead certified as lifestyle wearables focused on tracking overall health.
Samsung’s recent update to its Health Monitor app allows users to use the PPG sensor in Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 or Galaxy Watch Active to take a blood pressure reading, reports Becca Caddy in TechRadar.
The cuff-based blood pressure measuring had a wearable upgrade. Omron HeartGuide, for example, uses a cuff, it’s very small and within the strap of a fairly slim wearable, which makes it look like a smartwatch. At $499/£499 (about AU$650), the price may sound exorbitant, but it’s made by a top health tech company like Omron and it can provide accurate, on-the-spot blood pressure readings when you ask it to.
Aktiia developed the world’s first 24-7, automated blood pressure monitoring system that easily and comfortably gathers data during the day and while sleeping. This groundbreaking medical innovation provides people and their physicians comprehensive insights into blood pressure patterns to better inform the diagnosis and management of hypertension. Available for sale in the United Kingdom, Aktiia’s device received CE Mark as a Class IIa medical device – signifying that the device has been assessed to meet high safety, health, and environmental protection requirements in Europe.
“Our technology also analyses pulse waves traveling along the arteries to generate estimations of blood pressure,” Dr. Josep Sola, founder and CTO of Aktiia tells me. “But instead of using pressure sensors, Aktiia's algorithms leverage optical sensors that analyze the changing diameter of the arteries at the wrist.”
A wearable blood pressure monitor might feel more convenient and allow you to collect more readings, but taking these measurements from your wrist could mean they’re not as accurate, the TechRadar report said.
“While upcoming technologies may be able to eventually overcome this challenge, we need careful studies to be performed to ensure that they are consistently valid in a wide range of patients, using appropriate and rigorous methods that are developed by experts in this area,” says Dr Jordana Cohen, an Assistant Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania who specializes in hypertension research. “Including those who do not stand to profit from sales of these devices.”
More testing, data collection, and validation may deliver more accurate cuffless blood pressure monitors.
Could wearable technology be the future of blood pressure monitoring?
“This is the beginning of a modernization of century-old technology,” says Dr. Ghalib Janjua, a lecturer in electronic and electrical engineering at Robert Gordon University who specializes in bioengineering and cuffless blood pressure monitoring. “It’s an area which is showing encouraging results.”