As of this writing, the answer to this question is pretty straightforward: None of the Garmin smartwatches or Garmin Fitness Trackers include the possibility to monitor blood pressure while on the go.
It doesn’t mean that in the years to come, we will not see Garmin devices that will offer the possibility to act as a blood pressure monitor.
Garmin smartwatches are not known for being the top-of-the-line health tracking devices as the brand is more famous for developing serious sport or workout tracking devices. The Garmin Forerunner, Instinct, or Fenix are made for real sports addicts or adventurers that want to make the most of the smartwatch to track their sports routines.
In a nutshell, Garmin watches are as robust as the Nokia phones were. When trekking in the mountains or for military personnel, the Garmin Fenix will even leverage its solar charging technology to give you up to three weeks of battery life. But, of course, this unique technology does not come cheap, and you will have to pay a hefty premium for it. Sadly even for a $700 and up to $100 for the 51mm Saphire Solar edition, the Garmin Fenix will lack a blood pressure monitoring feature.
You may wonder why getting a blood pressure reading from a wearable device seems as challenging as climbing Mount Everest. After all, many smartwatches will let you check your heart rhythm and sleep tracking, detect potential arrhythmia and even measure blood oxygen saturation levels.
So why is blood pressure monitoring so challenging? So far, only the Samsung Galaxy Watch 3 and 4 include optical sensor-based blood pressure measurement capabilities.
Why measuring blood pressure with a smartwatch is difficult?
To answer this question, it is essential to understand blood pressure and why optical sensors struggle when asked to measure it.
In a nutshell, the heart is just a pump. During each heartbeat, oxygenated blood will be pushed out of the left ventricle and feed the cells with the oxygen needed to fulfill their biological duties.
The systolic pressure, the higher number, will be the pressure in mmHg during each heartbeat. The lower number, the diastolic pressure will correspond the pressure between each heartbeat representing the constant pressure of the blood against the arteries.
To measure the blood pressure, physicians or other Health Care Professionals will use a blood pressure monitor that will transiently block the flow of blood in the arm and then measure at what pressure the blood will start flowing back. So simple. Imagine yourself watering your garden and pinching a water hose to find the pressure sweet spot for the water to flow back.
The problem with the Garmin and most smartwatches are that they can not pinch and block the blood flow. So to measure blood pressure, they rely on what they are good at Detecting heartbeats and measuring the heart rate.
Using complex algorithms, wearable devices will do their best to estimate blood pressure. Leveraging machine learning-based technologies, some companies and researchers showed that photoplethysmography (PPG) sensors could lead to reliable blood pressure measures, as long as the analyses are done on a one-shot basis and not used for continuous blood pressure monitoring.
The issue is that, to date, none of the companies aiming at putting an optical blood pressure monitor on your wrist succeeded in getting clearance for the FDA…which undoubtedly raises eyebrows on the validity of the technology.
For decades blood pressure monitoring gold standard relied on blocking the blood flow, and optical sensors may be great for detecting the heart rate but are still in their infancy for blood pressure monitoring.
Garmin is a company that made its reputation on the quality, robustness, and reliability of its devices. We can only suspect that the company is waiting for technology to reach a degree of validation in line with their standards before releasing a Garmin Blood Pressure watch.
How are Smartwatch makers dealing with blood pressure monitoring?
In the last couple of years, we have seen new hybrid smartwatch/blood pressure monitor devices appearing on the market. The idea was to combine the accuracy of the standard blood pressure oscillometric method and the versatility of a wearable.
Omron, the Japanese medical device giant, was the first to release the now-famous Omron Heartguide.
Omron miniaturized the inflatable cuff and pump to offer the first FDA-cleared blood pressure monitor smartwatch. Even if the Omron Heartguide smartwatch features are still limited, this device was the first to bridge the gap between healthcare and wearables.
Other companies soon followed the trend even if the risk is for them to look as too medical and not enough fitness. Somehow, with the Fitbit Sense, Fitbit Charge 5, Apple Watch, and Samsung Galaxy Watch getting more and more into the healthcare field, we can expect Garmin to follow their leads.
YHE, a Chinese startup, released the BP Doctor Pro in 2021. The device included a miniaturized inflatable wrist cuff. When testing the smartwatch, we were impressed by its build quality and the accuracy of the blood pressure measurements.
We also noted during our review that the interface was very similar to the ones found in Huawei products.
This is not a surprise for us that Huawei recently announced the release of the Huawei Watch D, which seems to combine the best of both worlds: an inflatable blood pressure cuff and a stylish and features heavy smartwatch.
No doubt that in the years to come, other manufacturers will include fitness trackers that will double as high-tech health trackers in their line of products.
A good first step will include a third-party blood pressure monitor app. Do Garmin already made this first step and included the possibility of synchronizing blood pressure data from external devices?
Can you synchronize Blood Pressure data with Garmin Connect?
Apple Health allows us to communicate with external smart blood pressure monitors, and we thought it could be great if the Garmin IQ ecosystem also offered such a possibility. At least, as we mentioned, it would be a step in the right direction and the proof that Garmin was considering blood pressure monitoring on their list of future developments.
We checked on the Connect IQ Store for “Blood Pressure” and were hoping to find an app to share our CheckMe BP Monitor data.
We only found the “Rest Status Check Before Measuring Blood Pressure,” which lets you know if you are rested enough to monitor your blood pressure.
No need to say that we were disappointed.
To Wrap Up
With close to 50% of adults in the US suffering from hypertension, we expect Garmin to consider adding a blood pressure monitoring feature to their line of smartwatches.
Samsung and now Huawei have well understood that BP checking is critical not only for our health but also for their bottom line. Apple has also been rumored to work on such an addition, and we hope even if, according to MacRumors, our expectation should stay low for the Apple Watch Series 8 or even 9.
Garmin has made its reputation on quality. However, in a wearable device space that is becoming increasingly competitive, we would love to see Garmin make a move and seriously consider adding blood pressure monitoring to their overall great smartwatches.