Admittedly, blood pressure is not the sexiest topic around. However, given that the CDC says one third of Americans has high blood pressure (putting them at increased risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke and kidney disease), it is a damned important one. And it's a good idea to keep tabs on your pressure beyond the annual physical — especially if your reading is legitimately on the high side.
Enter the Withings Blood Pressure Monitor, by far the easiest tool we've found that keeps tabs on this important metric. The Withings monitor is FDA-approved and basically idiot proof. It comes fully charged out of the box, and after it's paired via Bluetooth to your Apple or Android phone, it's ready to go. You wrap it round your left arm, push start in the app, it does its squeeze-and-release thing, and then spits out systolic and diastolic readings along with pulse rate. Each reading has a green, yellow or red light next to it, so you instantly know if the number displayed is reason for relief or reason to dial 911.
The app keeps track of the readings so you can see your progress over time (which is essential since blood pressure doesn't improve or decline drastically overnight), and you can email results to your doc from within the app, which is a nice touch. Another bonus is that the cuff happens to be pretty good looking for a medical device, sporting a white perforated faux-leather exterior and bright green Velcro strip and interior lining.
But what really sets the Withings monitor apart is that readings are fed into the company's comprehensive Health Mate app. When combined with data from the company's separately sold activity tracker, Pulse O2, a glance at the Health Mate app provides measurements of physical health worthy of a NASA astronaut training program: blood pressure, heart rate, blood oxygen level, sleep duration and quality, steps taken, distance traveled, elevation gained and calories burned.
One word of caution: Don't go nuts checking your pressure over and over when you first get the device – it does squeeze fairly hard and your arm will get sore. [$129.95; withings.com]