Health, fitness and well-being have undergone a massive tech revolution over recent years. While wearable devices have garnered a lot of consumer market attention, there has been a parallel, but quieter, shift happening with health care devices. And, as a self-confessed tech addict who keeps looking for gear that can help me along the journey to staying well for as long as possible, I'm drawn to devices that help me keep tabs on my health. that's what led me to the QardioArm - a blood pressure cuff (or sphygmomanometer) that can measure blood pressure and feed that data into other health and well-being applications.
As my wife is a healthcare professional, we give staying healthy and monitoring key risk indicators for health issues extra attention. So, a little while ago we decided to look for a blood pressure cuff for home. And, naturally, that meant finding one with a high-tech edge to satisfy my geeky side. The QardioArm connects via Bluetooth to either Android or iOS handsets.
Setup and specs
There was a time when pairing Bluetooth devices required a ritual sacrifice, a full moon and a small coven chanting incantations. But Qardio has the process down to a simple process. I installed the Qardio app, unwrapped the QardioArm and launched the app. From there, all I had to do was touch the device to my iPhone and voila! The devices were connected.
The QardioArm supports devices running iOS 7.0 or later, Kindle, Android 4.4 or later, Android Wear and Apple Watch and it requires Bluetooth 4.0. And it's powered by four AAA batteries which slip into the main body of the unit.
The heart of the QardioArm is 5.5 by 2.5 by 14cm box attached to the cuff. It operates the pump and monitoring devices that measure your blood pressure and pulse. It can accommodate arms that are between 22 and 37cm in circumference and weighs 310g including the batteries.
Using the QardioArm
The cuff is looped through a bar so it can be neatly wrapped around the main body of the device for easy storage. It takes a little while for the cuff to "wear in" and it was quite stiff until I'd used it a few times.
Once you put the QardioArm on your arm, all you need to then do is launch the app and hit the "Go" button. The cuff inflates and the device monitors your pulse, deflating the cuff once the test is done. The entire test process takes about minute from the time you hit the Go button till you have result.
Each test result is geo-tagged so you know where you were tested, as well as the date and time. And you can easily share the results of a test with your doctor. Each result is plotted onto a chart so you know whether your blood pressure is within a healthy range although the charts aren't quite right. Australia has adjusted their view of what is considered normal. Qardio's range for normal, which is between 130/85 and 120/80 is now considered to be borderline high in Australia.
But, if you're monitoring your blood pressure because of a medical issue, then you best consult your doctor for what is right for you. And it can also detect irregular heartbeats
When you look back at your results, you can see them in a list or by location and there are some nice graphs that let you track your systolic (maximum pressure of one beat) and diastolic (minimum pressure between two beats) as well as your resting pulse during the test. And you can set reminders to test yourself regularly if that's something you need to do.
The QardioArm works with both Apple Health and Samsung's S Health so it can send data directly to those platforms. If you want to test someone else's blood pressure and not have their data stored with your records, there's a simple "Visitor mode" toggle.
"White coat" hypertension
One of the challenges some doctors face is that a patient's blood pressure can elevate as a result of testing. The stress of testing your blood pressure can elevate it which can lead to an incorrect diagnosis of hypertension.
The QardioArm lets you watch a slideshow of calming images, either from their library or using your own photos, to soothe you so your blood pressure and pulse rate aren't elevated. While that might not be a big deal for many people, it can be helpful for some.
The QardioArm is approved by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration, United States' Food and Drug Administration as well as European clinical standards. So, from a standards point of view it's deemed to be suitable for doctors to use in those jurisdictions.
As there's a history of heart disease in my family, I keep a pretty close watch and have a solid history of data around my blood pressure. I took several measurements at different times of day and after various activities and the results were completely within the range of what's normal for me.
There are lots of offical tests and validations for the QardioArm so i'm satisfied that it's accurate.
Price, availability and recommendations
You can purchase the QardioArm from Qardio's online store for $179.99. Postage was free when I ordered mine and if you give them your email address, you can take another 10% off that price. It comes in several different colours (I chose white when I purchased mine).
I've spotted other blood pressure cuffs in local retail stores for around $50 but was always concerned about their accuracy. But I don't have that concern with the QardioArm, although that comes with a price. However, I'd prefer to pay the money for accuracy.