The pros and cons of using mobile health technology

Quick notes:

  • While physicians may agree that traditional blood pressure testing is best, blood pressure apps may be helpful to your health after all.

  • According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three Americans has high blood pressure.

  • Health apps can also remind you that it’s time to take blood pressure or other medications.

There are now countless applications and smartphone features out there that claim to be able to measure your blood pressure. But how accurate are these blood pressure apps?

Apps that are able to take your blood pressure using your finger or wrist, and your phone’s camera feature may not be 100% accurate, but there could still be benefits to using them. While physicians may agree that traditional blood pressure testing is best, blood pressure apps may be helpful to your health after all.

Here’s a round-up of everything you need to know about using your smartphone and applications to test your blood pressure and what these can mean for your health.

How to read blood pressure numbers

There are five blood pressure ranges that are recognized by the American Heart Association. These ranges are normal, elevated, hypertension stage 1, hypertension stage 2, and hypertension crisis.

Blood pressure is recorded using two numbers. The first number is known as Systolic blood pressure. This indicates how much pressure your blood is putting on your artery walls when your heartbeats.

The second number is known as Diastolic blood pressure. This number reflects how much pressure your blood is putting on your artery walls when your heart is between beats resting.

The first number is typically the most important. This indicates your risk for a cardiovascular problem. It’s also used to diagnose high blood pressure.

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How accurate are blood pressure apps?

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three Americans has high blood pressure. Many of these Americans are trying to test their blood pressure on their smartphone to potentially stop using traditional armband testing methods.

A new study published in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension reveals both some pros and cons to many widely-used blood pressure and health apps.

The first takeaway is it’s important to note that none of the blood pressure or healthcare apps out there are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA is responsible for regulating medical devices and no blood pressure apps have been approved as of 2019.

While their accuracy is currently unknown, it’s more the user’s testing ability that can also be called into question. If used properly, mobile health devices may, in fact, be able to properly measure blood pressure, and perform other health tests.

One current dilemma in this field is that if there are too many regulations put in place, the perfection and creation of current mobile health devices be may be stifled.

While their accuracy for testing blood pressure may not be 100%, there are a lot of other great benefits to using a mobile device for health tracking purposes.

The benefits of health tracking

One of the main benefits of tracking your health in an app or program on your phone is that they hold you accountable. Even if your blood pressure isn’t totally accurate when recorded using an app, the fact that you’re monitoring it is crucial.

Health apps can also remind you that it’s time to take blood pressure or other medications. Apps also can track your activity levels. Fitness tracking is most often used for steps and walking.

Although these apps have yet to be regulated for accuracy, fitness and health apps are great for reminders, tracking, and keeping your medical records handy.

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