How Do Fitness Trackers Measure Blood Pressure?

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Technology is turning the world bit by bit. Has technology not helped you in a way so far? Fitness trackers started with basic functions such as a calorie counter, GPS, heart rate monitor, time and date. Something else has now been added with the newly developed fitness trackers currently on the market.

In some cases, a question may pop up in your mind: how do fitness trackers measure blood pressure? Well, while most designers of fitness trackers have shared minimal information about how they achieve this, we’ll dig deeper and share our thoughts.

Monitoring your blood pressure is advantageous in determining your health and fitness status. Fitness trackers have made it easier to measure your blood pressure from home and thus has increased the convenience of it.

One thing you will note is that fitness trackers do not differ so much as with smart watches. Both use similar technology to determine the different components such as blood pressure and heart rate.

What is blood pressure?

It’s important to know what blood pressure is. Blood pressure is fundamentally the force applied by your blood against your arteries. It is denoted in two numbers, e.g. 140/90 mmHg. While the top number denotes your systolic blood pressure, the bottom pressure represents your diastolic blood pressure.

Systolic blood pressure – Highest pressure during a heartbeat

Diastolic pressure – lowest pressure during heartbeat relaxes

How blood pressure is measured normally?

When did you last visit a hospital or a medical facility? Alternatively, when was the last time you visited a free medical camp? Whichever day you were there, you will agree with me that the physician took readings of your temperature and blood pressure.

Blood pressure is critical to determine your overall health. A sphygmomanometer is used by health providers to measure blood pressure. A doctor places a cuff around your arm and it’s inflated with a pump to cut the circulation off. The cuff is then deflated via a small valve, and the doctor uses a stethoscope (placed on your arm) to listen for the sound of blood rushing through the arteries.

Having this in mind, some fitness trackers use a similar form factor such as the doctor’s test while others use advanced technology.

How do fitness trackers measure blood pressure?

Blood pressure is an important aspect of the human body in regards to fitness and health. According to statistics, one in every three adults in the US suffers from hypertension. Such worrying facts are what necessitated manufacturers to incorporate blood pressure data into their gadgets.

Let’s first stray a bit before shifting our focus to how do fitness trackers measure blood pressure. It will assist in understanding the concepts being used by fitness trackers to measure blood pressure. An application aids in collecting the data and displays it after complex analysis in the form of statistics. Such statistics may include data such as heart rate, distance and currently on the spot – blood pressure.

How do fitness trackers work?

Fitness trackers measure various components of your body during a training session or throughout an activity. Components measured include motion, intensity and many more. The data is processed and displayed in readable form on a screen.

What happens in the background is that the data collected is compared against data of a healthy person and data gathered from other gadgets. An application aids in collecting the data and displays it after complex analysis in the form of statistics. Such statistics include data such as heart rate, distance and most recently, blood pressure.

Pros and Cons of measuring blood pressure using fitness trackers

In as much as fitness trackers with inbuilt blood pressure monitor are eye-catching, they do come with their downsides too.

Pros

  • You can share your health data with a doctor
  • Helps you avoid the risk of high blood pressure
  • You can take your measurements when not visiting the doctor
  • Works as a daily driver to stay active and fit
  • The trackers are easy to use
  • Blood pressure data aids you in adjusting your fitness plan

Cons

  • Not as accurate as a sphygmomanometer
  • Sensitive to every movement of the body
  • The battery can be a challenge

How fitness trackers measure blood pressure (techniques)

To measure the blood pressure accurately, it’s measured in line with the heart (the reason why physicians use the upper arm). For this reason, most fitness trackers require you to raise your wrist to the heart level for more accurate results. Wrist blood pressure monitors are very sensitive to the position of the body.

  1. Using an inflatable cuff

This technique imitates the doctor’s approach. In this case, the only difference is the lack of a pump and the size of the BP monitor. In this technique, the fitness tracker is programmed to take instant oscillometric readings (morning and evening).

Additional readings can be recorded automatically at night with the help of an inflatable cuff, which is fitted on the inner side.

  1. Using sensors

Some fitness trackers use sensors such as photoplethysmography (PPG) and electrocardiogram (EKG) to determine your blood pressure. These kinds of fitness trackers do not have an inflatable tube on the inner side of the wrist band.

While PPG tracks your heart rate, EKG monitors your blood pressure. To determine your blood pressure using this kind of sensors fitted in some fitness trackers, you put your finger on the sensor for about 15-20 seconds and boom, you have the results on the screen.

Empa sensor is also a newly developed sensor embedded on fitness trackers for monitoring the blood pressure. The sensor is made from piezo-resistive fibers and measures the contact pressure of the tracker on the skin.

The fiber detects movements or pressure changes and converts them to electric signals. The electric signals are recorded on a measuring device.

  1. Manual trackers

The manual tracker includes taking readings using the clinical method and viewing the results on the fitness tracker itself. Alternatively, some fitness trackers allow you to record readings from manual blood pressure readings via a smartphone app. By use of the recorded data, you can compare it against the previous readings for optimal fitness results.

Tips

  • Read the manufacturer’s manual appropriately
  • Ensure the device is not very tight or loose after wearing it
  • To obtain better readings, your arm should not be in movement
  • Always share your fitness data with your doctor for expert advice
  • Avoid drugs before measuring your blood pressure
  • Always measure your blood pressure multiple times and compare the results

Conclusion

A fitness tracker may be essential to your workout routine, more than you imagine. By monitoring your blood pressure, you can get an overview of your heart health. Furthermore, knowing your blood pressure drives you into maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

How do fitness trackers measure blood pressure? Although many researchers question this capability, you should not worry as much. Most fitness trackers have been approved by the FDA, and for those not yet approved, you can always check with your doctor regularly.

Lastly, you may notice the discrepancies between your health data and the doctor’s report. If this is the case, it is important to note that blood pressure is dependent on various factors such as physical activity, stress level, weight, mood, alcohol, genetics, diet, age, and drugs. That said, it’s recommended to measure your blood pressure more than once and do so regularly.

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