Review: Withings BPM Connect takes your blood pressure at home
This $100 FDA-cleared monitor works with your smartphone sending results directly to your doctor
While many smartwatches are also able to read your pulse, a blood pressure reading is more complicated to attain. Drug stores are easy places to find blood pressure devices, although typically most people are used to that metric being taken at the doctor's office. Withings BPM Connect is a monitor that does exactly this: reads your blood pressure from wherever you are, including your home. The company sent us the monitor, cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which we tested.
What is the BPM Connect?
Withings BPM Connect is a health device designed for use by consumers. It connects with the Health Mate smartphone app, which works on both iOS and Android devices. Results from the Withings Health Mate app can also be ported into the Apple Health app if you're an iOS user if you choose. You have to give permission for these two apps to link together, and you can choose to keep the data separate.
The BPM Connect is essentially a monitor, designed to take your blood pressure, a combination of your systolic reading, which is the pressure in your arteries as your heart contracts, and your diastolic reading, which is pressure between the beats. You get a result based on your numbers: normal, or three different levels of elevated including high blood pressure stage 1 and 2, and hypertensive — which means you should be heading to an emergency room.
The Withings BPM ConnectGearBrain
How it works
You start using the BPM Connect by charging the battery, meant to last six months, with the enclosed USB charger, and then downloading the app. You connect the BPM Connect to the app over Wi-Fi. Once they're linked, you'll start entering information about yourself in the app, including your age, to correctly interpret your readings.
To take a reading, start by sitting somewhere comfortable. Then slide your arm through the adjustable cuff with the white monitor or tube along your inner arm, close to your heart. Like at the doctors, you'll pull your shirt up and place the cuff on bare skin.
I placed this along my left arm as that's typically the arm I remember being used at my doctor's office when they take my blood pressure. As I'm right-handed, this was also the easiest way for me to adjust the cuff comfortably. But I would say, that if you have mobility, physical dexterity or weakness issues, the BPM Connect may be a bit challenging to use on your own.
You're next going to place your lower arm bent, and resting palm up, on a table. If you've ever had a blood pressure reading at a drug store like CVS, this is typically the angle.
Withings BPM Connect - Wi-Fi Smart Blood Pressure Monitor
To start the reading you'll press the button at the bottom of the tube once, and then a second time. That will start a single reading. But you can do a triple reading, the latter which merges all three together to give you a single set of numbers. To do three readings, you'll push the button for a longer press, and then you press a second time to get the reading started.
The cuff will begin to tighten and inflate — and I found it definitely uncomfortable. For triple readings, the cuff will inflate, do the reading, deflate and then start up again, three times. If you're finding the tightening slightly painful, don't tighten the cuff the next as much.
The cuff will show on its LED display that it's working, and if you're doing three readings it will tell you each time that's it's working on the first, second or third. Three readings should take about two to three minutes. You'll also see results right on the tube's LED screen of your blood pressure and heart rate when they're done, and these are also stored in your app. You can share the results with your doctor, and you can also get pinged to send period reminders so you never forget to update the results.
The Health Mate app is where data from the Withings BPM Connect is storedGearBrain
Withings tells you that your blood pressure is optimal if your systolic is less than 120 and your diastolic is less than 80. The company also says, in the app, that the reading is a useful tool "for tracking and monitoring abnormal blood pressure," it reads. My heart rate was consistently in the normal range each time I did a reading. My blood pressure? That didn't come up well.
I was getting numbers that put me just into stage 1 of hypertension which means that I should be looking at ways to potentially lower my blood pressure — maybe exercising more, or eating more healthily. But that was inconsistent depending on the time of day, depending on how much coffee I had consumed, and also depending on how tight the monitor was on my arm. Some readings were absolutely fine, and green. Some turned up a warning.
The more tight the band would get as it inflated, the more the device also hurt — and the more stressed I became as readings were done. Using the monitor on my own, without a doctor or medical professional assisting me, seemed less optimum. If I was someone who got nervous about every dip or jump in my medical data, the monitor could make me even more anxious and potentially give wrong readins.
The Withings BPM Connect is $99.95 and can be bought on Apple's online store, Amazon and on Withing's site
Withings BPM Connect - Wi-Fi Smart Blood Pressure Monitor
Should you buy the BPM Connect?
Our experience with the Withings BPM Connect did alarm me a bit. I've never been diagnosed with elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, or any issue of the kind. Getting readings, then, that I was in a danger zone seemed worrying, and may be doubt them as well. I'm not unfamiliar with my blood pressure rising in a doctor's office. But I had a recent annual physical — complete with an ECG — and my results were within normal ranges.
Even knowing how to put the cuff on is a bit complicated, leaving me with the sense that a professional would be better at demonstrating how to use the device, at least for someone's first try. Even with the results, I wished I had a medical expert who could help me interpret what I was seeing. Used in this way, with a professional assisting someone, the Withings BPM Connect could be an extremely useful device, one that can help people monitor their blood pressure — under the care of a medical expert.