Can wearables measure blood pressure?

Introduction: Can wearables measure blood pressure? Wearables like smartwatches and healthiness trackers have become increasingly famous for monitoring various health parameters. While many wearables have options like heart rate monitoring and activity tracking, measuring blood pressure accurately with the help of wearables has been a more challenging endeavor. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 9.4 million people die yearly from difficulties related to high blood pressure. But lots of people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it.

You will only know if your numbers are high if your blood pressure is checked regularly. Doctors do this with traditional arm cuff readers — and similar products are available for home use — but such devices have limitations.

Can wearables measure blood pressure?

Research publicized in the International Journal of Preventive Medicine indicates that home blood pressure cuffs can lead to complications due to ill-fitting bands and incorrect positioning of the arm.

In the medical environment, ‘white coat syndrome’ (where the patient’s blood pressure is elevated due to the stress of being in the medical environment) is a common problem.

The arm cuff device is also not well designed for older patients. Many health tech companies are now using wearable technology to find more convenient ways for people to measure their blood pressure.

Can wearables measure blood pressure?

Out-of-office blood pressure (BP) measurement is essential to hypertension diagnostic algorithms and management. In the era of digitalization, a great deal of wearable BP measuring devices have been developed.

These digital blood pressure monitors allow the patient to measure BP repeatedly with minimal discomfort. At the same time, they promise fundamental changes in diagnostic accuracy, as the importance of accurately diagnosing hypertension is evident. 

By increasing the number of BP measurements under different conditions, these monitors allow the accurate identification of different clinical phenotypes, such as masked hypertension and pathological BP variability, that adversely affect cardiovascular prognosis.

The continuous measurement of BP and incorporation of new features into the BP variable enable better interpretation of BP data in real-life settings. 

In this response, we’ll explore the current state of wearables in measuring blood pressure and discuss the limitations and potential advancements in this area.

Blood pressure and wearables

Blood pressure is an essential indicator of cardiovascular health, also caused by high uric acid and is typically measured using a sphygmomanometer, which consists of an inflatable cuff and a pressure gauge.

This traditional method requires the cuff to be covered around the upper arm and inflated to stop blood flow temporarily. The pressure is then released gradually while the healthcare professional listens to the blood flow using a stethoscope or an electronic sensor.

Due to the complex nature of blood pressure measurement, replicating this process accurately with wearables presents several challenges. However, researchers and technology companies have been actively working on developing wearable devices capable of measuring blood pressure.

One approach that has gained attention is using optical sensors embedded in wearables. These sensors leverage photoplethysmography (PPG) technology, which measures changes in blood volume based on light absorption.

By shining light into the skin and detecting the reflected or transmitted light, PPG sensors can provide insights into blood flow patterns. Some wearables, like certain smartwatches, utilize PPG sensors to estimate blood pressure indirectly by analyzing the pulse wave velocity or pulse transit time, which can be correlated with blood pressure.

However, it is important to note that these methods are currently considered estimations rather than direct blood pressure measurements. Several factors, including the fit of the wearable device, motion artifacts, ambient temperature, and individual variations, can impact the accuracy of these estimations. Thus, the reliability of wearables in measuring blood pressure is still a subject of ongoing research and improvement.

Another promising avenue for measuring blood pressure with wearables is integrating inflatable cuffs into the device. These cuffs can be incorporated into the wristband or other wearable form factors, allowing for direct blood pressure measurement.

Some prototypes and research studies have demonstrated the feasibility of this approach, but commercial availability and widespread adoption are still in the early stages.

Additionally, machine learning algorithms play a crucial role in improving the accuracy of blood pressure measurements with wearables. The accuracy of estimations can be enhanced by training the algorithms on large datasets and correlating them with reference blood pressure measurements.

However, the challenge lies in accounting for the individual variations and developing robust algorithms that adapt to user profiles and conditions.

The best smartwatches have always been capable producers of health informatics, but the latest generation has upped the ante. Not only can the latest crop measure your heart rate, analyze your sleep patterns and count your steps, but some models can now even monitor your blood pressure.

This is a truly remarkable innovation in modern health technology. What once required a trip to the doctor can now be done with your wristwatch, but how accurate are the readings, and how much can you rely on the results?

Some smartwatches can generate very accurate blood pressure data. Depending on the model, your smartwatch may produce blood pressure readings within 10mmHg of the actual data.

To put it into context, according to the NHS, healthy blood pressure is between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg – the two figures representing the systolic pressure when your heart pushes blood out and beats. 

Are Blood Pressure Watches Accurate?

The accuracy of blood pressure watches varies by product. Always read the reviews of any blood pressure tracking watch you buy thoroughly to understand ​​the accuracy.

A blood pressure watch is not a substitute for regular monitoring by a medical professional. If you have health concerns and need to measure your blood pressure at home daily, investing in a quality home blood pressure cuff is a good idea.

Conclusion

In conclusion, while wearables have made significant progress in monitoring various health parameters, measuring blood pressure accurately remains challenging. Current technologies utilize optical sensors and machine learning algorithms to estimate blood pressure indirectly, but these methods have limitations and are still being refined.

Direct measurement using integrated cuffs shows promise, but commercial availability is limited. The development of more advanced sensors, improved algorithms, and rigorous clinical validation are key factors that will determine the future of wearables in accurately measuring blood pressure. To avoid blood pressure, avoid food that raises blood pressure and uric acid.

Also read: Can wearable detect sleep apnea; Can wearable cause cancer?; IoMT Wearable Device

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