Following on from my review of the excellent Withings Body Cardio scales, I have also been reviewing the Withings BPM Connect.
Withings BPM Connect – Electric Arm Blood Pressure Monitor, Wi-Fi Synchronization
- BLOOD PRESSURE: systolic and diastolic plus Heart Rate
- MEDICALLY ACCURATE: compliant with European medical device standards (EU)
- EASY TO USE: wireless, only one button to press
- EASY TO READ: immediate results on the LED screen of the device
- EASY TO UNDERSTAND: the results come with a color-coded feedback
With the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been identified that people overweight are more at risk from the infection. This has led the Government to start a new campaign to help the nation lose weight.
This new Government strategy doesn’t specifically target people with high blood pressure, but early research indicates people with high blood pressure are more likely to have worse symptoms and die from complications.
In China, 25% to 50% of people who came to hospitals with coronavirus had high blood pressure or another health condition like cancer, diabetes, or lung disease. In Italy, a report said that more than 99% of people who had died from the virus had one of these conditions – and 76% of them had high blood pressure.
Risks of High Blood pressure
Ignoring Covid, high blood pressure is bad for is in general, and there is a direct correlation between obesity and high blood pressure.
People with high blood pressure have increased risk of heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, heart failure, arterial disease, aortic aneurysms, kidney disease and vascular dementia.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
You’re at an increased risk of high blood pressure if you:
- Are over the age of 65
- Are overweight
- have a relative with high blood pressure
- Eat too much salt and do not eat enough fruit and vegetables
- Do not do enough exercise
- Drink too much alcohol or coffee (or other caffeine-based drinks)
- Do not get much sleep or have disturbed sleep
I should note, there is some debate over the salt issue. While salt plays a role, sodium-to-potassium ratio of your diet is arguably more important, however modern diets favour sodium-rich foods so this ratio is off, and it’s just easier to say that you need to cut back on salt.
Features vs BPM Core
Withings currently sell two devices, the BPM Connect for a reasonable £90 and the BPM Core for £230.
Both take your blood pressure, sync via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth and integrate with the Withings Health Mate App. They are also both upper arm cuff monitors.
The BPM Core then adds in ECG readings which can be used to detect Atrial fibrillation (AFib), the most common form of arrhythmia and can lead to heart failure, fatigue and shortness of breath.
AFib is also a significant risk for stroke and often has no symptoms.
Then the BPM Core has a digital stethoscope which can be placed next to the chest during a measurement, the digital stethoscope’s precise sound sensor can detect specific heart sound frequencies that correspond to the opening and closing of the heart valves.
Using these sounds, our proprietary artificial intelligence, developed with cardiologists and trained using thousands of real heart sound records, can detect potential disturbances that can indicate a risk for the most common valvular heart diseases.
Clinical Validation & Medically Accurate, but with a warning for pregnant users
From the Withings website:
BPM Connect was developed with the help of cardiologists and has been thoroughly tested against several reference devices to ensure best-in-class accuracy.
It is also compliant with European medical device standards
The British and Irish Hypertension Society maintains a list of recommended blood pressure monitors. Currently, no Withings monitors are on this list.
In 2016, the Withings BP-800 failed to meet the necessary standards for accuracy in pregnancy and preeclampsia [Hay A, Ayis S, Nzelu D, James L, Kametas NA. Validation of the Withings BP-800 in pregnancy and impact of maternal characteristics on the accuracy of blood pressure measurement. Pregnancy Hypertens. 2016;6(4):406-412. doi:10.1016/j.preghy.2016.09.005]
The Withings BPM Connect and Core were launched in July of 2019, so there is a good chance Withings have resolved these issues. Even though they are not listed by BIHS, it doesn’t mean they don’t meet the requirements, just that Withings haven’t paid for the devices to be tested and accredited.
Other devices, including the Omron MIT Elite have the same issue, so it is not particularly unusual. However, if you are pregnant and concerned about your BP then I would recommend at least corroborating the results with a different monitor.
The BPM Connect is well made and designed; it has a clean, simple look to it and rolls up easily enough for portability.
The clean aesthetic extends to a single button for all the controls. This works reasonably well in general, it is just individual presses to get it to take a blood pressure reading. However, if you want to do anything more advanced, such as go into the settings and do a factory reset, it is a bizarre combination of button presses, like entering a cheat code into a retro console.
The cuff itself has a lot of slack, this can be useful for people with particularly large arms, but I did find getting it to fit on my arm properly a little more tricky than some other options.
The BPM Connect has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, which helps make the setup process easier. When you place the device into the setup mode, the app will connect via Bluetooth, and you can pass over your Wi-Fi details. I was able to have the monitor set up and working within a couple of minutes.
Taking a blood pressure measurement
In theory, this is extremely simple; you strap it around your arm, press the button and let it do its thing. However, placing it incorrectly on your arm, sitting incorrectly, moving a little or various other things can cause the reading to go wildly off. This problem is not exclusive to Withings; it is just blood pressure monitors in general.
My body appears to be particularly finickety about accurate readings, and I regularly find myself having to do a minimum of 3 readings before the results are anywhere near normal.
My readings tend to run a bit higher than you would expect for someone so active. I think this is a combination of caffeine, poor sleep and stress.
App and monitoring your health
The Withings app is superb, I currently have the Cardio scales, sleep mat and now this. So all the data is in one place, giving me feedback on multiple aspects of my health.
You can view the data either via a browser or the app, I generally prefer via a browser as it gives me a bigger screen and higher resolution to analyse as much data as possible.
Just like the other health products, everything is plotted on a graph showing you changes over days, weeks, months or even years. My weight data goes back for 3 years.
With each reading, you can then add a note to it, so if you had a bad night sleep, or maybe you went out drinking the night before, you can use notes to remember what triggers high and low readings.
Price and Competition
There are blood pressure monitors to fit all budgets, a dumb one from a reputable brand like Omron will set you back as little as £24.
Braun iCheck 7 – I reviewed this two years ago, it is a smartphone syncing wrist-based BPM for just £42. Wrist monitors are smaller and in theory more convenient to use, but in my experience, I have found them even harder to get an accurate measurement.
Omron Evolv – Also reviewed two years ago, this is another smart BPM, this one has a pre-wrapped cuff which is arguably easier to fit and costs around the same as the Withings.
Braun ActivScan 9 – Another one from two years ago, this is more orientated for home use with multi-user support, it has app support, but you can also keep track of all the readings on the device itself. When I originally reviewed it, it was £150, but you can get it for just £70 now.
I would say all of these are just as good as the Withings with one exception. The Withings HealthMate app is far superior, especially when you combine it with the other Withings devices.
In my previous reviews, I have stated that I am a big fan of the Withings ecosystem, and the same applies here. Having all your health data in one place makes it easier to monitor the trends of your health. As you lose weight (and hopefully get fitter), your blood pressure will go down as will your resting heart rate and pulse wave velocity.
Having this data in one place should also help you identify what causing spikes or dips in all the variables. For example, if you have a Withings Sleep Mat, you may notice a spike in blood pressure after a poor nights sleep.
I always struggle to get accurate readings on BPM machines, and the same was true here. A slight misfit of the cuff or sitting awkwardly can lead to high readings.
At £90 it is not the cheapest smart blood pressure monitor, and if you only want a BPM machine, I wouldn’t say there is any particular need to get this one over some of the more affordable options.
However, if you already having Withings products, or think you may invest in one of their other health products it is absolutely worth it.