Study: Heart Disease Risk Begins At Lower Blood Pressure Levels

Web Producer: Brad Maglinger

A new study shows the risk of heart disease begins at blood pressure levels lower than previously thought. A reading of 120 over 80 used to be normal, but now it's considered borderline. If you fall into that group, you may want to start keeping better tabs on your health at home.

Two of the most popular selling brands of home blood pressure testing kits are missing from the shelf at Freedom Medical. Evidence perhaps that more people are concerned about their blood pressure. The remaining units range in price from $25 to $95, but the high end ones aren't necessarily the best.

"The wrist one is easy," explains Freedom Medical manager Kevin Asbell. "The wrist one is not real accurate. The farther away you get from your heart, the less accurate you are in your measurements. They also have them that go on the finger. Very easy. You slide it on and turn it on and there's your pressure. They're more meant for monitoring situations, not exact readings."

So stick with a model that has an arm cuff. If you have a medical condition that makes it hard to inflate the cuff yourself, it's worth the extra money to buy one that does it for you. Otherwise, save your money and buy a manual one.

Cardiac specialty nurse Amy rawlins says, "You want the cuff snug, but you want to be able to run your finger up there, OK? This should be level with your heart. And also the monitor should be level with your heart."

Rawlins says many home testers don't sit still well enough to get an accurate reading. Both feet go on the floor, palm of the hand should be turned up. The home testing kit that is digital is easy to read and moderately priced at $40. More expensive brands can store up to 50 readings at a time. You can save money by recording your readings on paper.

A check on a professional blood pressure guage and the reading is a close 144 over 76.

So the home kits can be accurate and a good idea if you're trying to stave off hypertension.

To make sure your home kit is working properly, take it into your doctor once a year to compare readings. Also, nurse Rawlins says the ones at the drug store usually work well if they're arm cuffs. The ones that test your finger or forearms aren't as accurate.

These home kits are a good investment. Some patients can have their's up to 15 years. So they do last.