Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Stay Away From Smartphone Apps Claiming to Measure Blood Pressure

Today, I had my annual physical exam at a local medical center. Those of you who have read this blog in years past know that I typically post a writing about my annual exam. It's always the same thing... the doctor examines me and tells me that he wishes that all men my age would come through his door in such good condition. I don't have to take any medications and my weight, heart, and other things checked out just fine... including my blood pressure, which was normal.

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries that carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can cause hardening and thickening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other complications.

I recently read that many people are believing in smartphone apps that supposedly perform blood pressure measurements. These apps have quite a professional appearance and may seem legitimate; however, they are highly inaccurate and can actually be quite dangerous due to false readings.

There are two types of blood measuring apps that can be found on the app stores. One type uses your phone’s camera and flashlight to do the measurements. You hold your index finger on the camera while the flashlight is shining on it and 10-15 seconds later you get a blood pressure reading. There are also apps that aren’t even trying to look legitimate. These apps simply tell you to press your finger at an arbitrary part of the display and hold it there while it's supposedly "measuring" your blood pressure. After that, these apps spill out what is nothing more than random numbers within certain limits that are acceptable for a person in good health.

Before the procedure, users may be asked to input their gender, age, height and weight for "extra accuracy." Of course, "extra accuracy" is laughable since there’s no real accuracy to begin with. Scientists from the John Hopkins University School of Medicine extensively tested one of the most popular blood pressure apps to see if the measurements it gives are accurate. The results? For some measurements, the values given were within a reasonable accuracy range only 24 percent of the time. The conclusion was that the app was "highly inaccurate" and that "four-fifths of individuals with hypertensive BP levels will be falsely reassured that their BP is in the non-hypertensive range."

Stay away from smartphone apps that supposedly read your blood pressure. See a physician and have it done properly and accurately.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso