That’s the conclusion of a recent study published online in the journal Hypertension. It looked at 37 clinical trials that included a total of 9,446 men and women with high blood pressure, and found that those who measured their pressure at home saw, on average, a 3-point reduction in their systolic (upper) and a 2-point reduction in their diastolic (lower) blood pressure levels compared with those who only had their levels measured in a doctor's office. Adults who used home monitors were also twice as likely to reduce their need for blood pressure drugs.
Another recent study found that about half of U.S. adults with high blood pressure—or 32 million people—don't have their condition under control. Left unmanaged, high blood pressure, or hypertension, can up your risk for heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure.
Ask your doctor whether an at-home blood-pressure monitor makes sense for you, and ask your health-insurance carrier whether it will cover the cost. (The models we tested were priced $30 to $130.) Our experts say that good candidates for at-home monitoring include: seniors, whose blood pressure can vary; people who experience "white-coat hypertension," a spike in blood pressure when they are tested in a doctor's office or hospital; and people with diabetes, for whom tight blood-pressure control is important.
And don’t underestimate the role of lifestyle changes, such as eating less salt, losing weight, quitting smoking, reducing stress, and exercising regularly, in lowering your blood pressure levels. If lifestyle changes aren't helping and depending on how high your blood pressure is, your doctor may prescribe medication.
—Ginger Skinner, web associate editor
Read more on how to choose the best blood pressure monitor for your needs, see our tips on checking your blood pressure, and take a look at our Ratings of 13 arm and wrist monitors (available to subscribers).