Today, May 17th, is World Hypertension Day. So, I hope it’s a good day to review one of the latest tools to measure your blood pressure. I’ve used a lot of these over the years, from the excellent Withings BPM Connect to the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4 and Huawei Watch D (which has a bracelet that inflates to measure blood pressure on your wrist in a similar way to a stand-alone inflatable bracelet, but the best of all is the bracelet Aktiia blood pressure monitor 24/7.
Aktiia bracelet is a single function tool. It doesn’t tell you the time or count your steps. Instead, this slim and light-looking device measures blood pressure, which is something the Apple Watch can’t manage.
Aktiia does its readings visually, like the Samsung Galaxy Watch 4, for example. No inflatable bracelet to tie around your upper arm: the bracelet takes measurements from your wrist only.
This means that you need to calibrate the Aktiia once a month, and an inflatable blood pressure bracelet that connects wirelessly to the bracelet is handy for this. This is something Samsung doesn’t offer, by the way.
The design of the bracelet couldn’t be simpler: a thin silicone strap fits on your wrist — just above your wrist bone for more accurate readings — and under the strap, the flat portion of the top of your wrist is pressed against. Technology aids that do the readings.
It’s a glossy black rectangle, not that you really see it often because it’s under a matte black silicone strap, with an optical sensor pressed against the skin. A green light shines on the skin when readings are taken.
If the design looks understated, it is probably because this is a tool that is running quietly in the background. There is no screen and you will never need to look at it until it is installed and removed. It can remain hidden under your sleeve.
It takes a dozen or more readings per day, and when you open the Aktiia smartphone app, the data is uploaded to your phone.
When you go to the doctor and he measures your blood pressure, it can often be high. Fear of seeing the result, stress of undergoing the doctor’s surgery etc. contribute to abnormally high results. This is sometimes called the white coat effect.
Therefore, Aktiia is designed to overcome these stresses and give you accurate readings by measuring in the background. You don’t know this is happening unless you happen to look at your wrist the very moment you do it and notice the green light. This is one of the great advantages of the tool, although it also has to do with its only drawback: you can’t make Aktiia take a reading on demand.
Sure, I understand the whole point of it is that you don’t know when to take a reading, and just knowing that can be enough to raise blood pressure in some people. However, I would have it as an option. The manufacturer tells me they are evaluating the feasibility of this while saying, and I agree, that negative readings have the greatest benefit.
You should sit quietly for a while until the reading is complete. I was told that doing something sedentary like watching TV for several minutes could be enough to turn on the bracelet to take the reading, but even so, there are often times of the day when the app didn’t take successful measurements.
You don’t know this until you take a look at the smartphone app. My usual day, apparently, means I’m not sitting long enough between lunchtime and early evening for any successful readings, so there’s a huge gap in my day’s results. Overnight readings are constantly achieved, so your blood pressure is covered when you sleep.
The app is clear and useful, with colored markers indicating whether your systolic and diastolic readings are perfect or not. Note that you need an active internet connection to use the app at all, which can be frustrating if you’re out of wifi, for example, and want to check past data. Surely the app doesn’t need this connection to show you what’s already in the app?
Each day shows what percentage of the readings were “in range” and it becomes somewhat addicting to check your readings and compare today to yesterday, for example. Helpfully, the app can show you charts of what’s best and what’s not, with numbers for both the FDA and the EU – these agree on what’s optimal and what’s not very safe, but the two differ slightly.
It’s worth noting that the Aktiia bracelet is not waterproof – it indicates this in the instruction manual, but I almost missed it. Therefore, you have to take it off when you shower, swim, shower, etc.
In the app, today’s page will show, “Today, April 27th” or whatever, and the previous days contain only the date. It would be more useful, I say, if I said a day of the week also every day, so I didn’t have to think twice to remember what I was doing that day.
I can’t definitively tell you how accurate the Aktiia bracelet is, although it does seem to come in very close to a normal blood pressure cuff when measured side-by-side. Aktiia says it meets the ISO81060-2 standard required for home blood pressure cuffs.
But I can tell you the data you gave me was great, and I’m glad to know it’s easy to share if you need to. I enjoy having an additional source of data, and how its results relate to how I feel. Having a bracelet that regularly measures your blood pressure while you sleep is especially helpful.
The Aktiia 24/7 Blood Pressure Monitor Bracelet is sold from aktiia.com In Germany, Austria, Italy and France, where it costs 209.99 euros, although it is currently reduced to 189.99 euros. The price in Switzerland is CHF 239.99, currently dropping to CHF 219.99. And in the UK and Ireland it’s £199.99, although it’s currently on sale at £179.99. The discounted price for World Hypertension Day continues until Thursday, May 19, 2022.