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Types of personal heart rate monitors

Discussion in 'Lifestyle Management' started by Andrew, Jan 31, 2013.

  1. Andrew

    Andrew Senior Member

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    This is the most frustrating thing to research. I go to sites that discuss the different types of personal heart rate monitors, and they only mention two types. I was about to buy when I realized there are many more types. But no review sites mention this. I think the problem is these review sites are thinking only of people who do things like running. They are not thinking about sick people who do low impact activities. But here's what I found so far.

    1. Chest strap (with reader in wrist or other places).

    2. Touch device, where it takes your pulse when you touch it it.

    3. Continuous display strapless wrist device. You wear it on your wrist and it continuously shows your heart rate.

    4. Then there are these ones you wear on your upper arm, but I have not read how they work.

    5. Next, there is one you slip onto your finger tip. This can cable to a wrist display, or the display can be on the device itself. These can also measure the amount of oxygen in our blood. I wonder if the O2 level reading would help use understand when we are in anaerobic respiration. Any thoughts on this???

    6. Finger strap. This looks like a tiny wrist watch, except the band goes around your finger. You just have to be careful not to give someone the finger when you show them your heart rate, although I guess the choice would be yours. :)

    Anyway, I'm sure these have their pros and cons, but review sites don't deal with this.

    Anyone know of a place that covers the whole topic? Any other thoughts?
    _June and Valentijn like this.
  2. SOC

    SOC Moderator and Senior Member

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    If there's a continuous display strapless wrist HR monitor, I want to hear about it! I've used the chest strap for years because there was no continuous strapless one when I was buying.

    If you are using it to learn to pace appropriately, you don't want to be touching it all the time the find out your HR. IMO, the best is a continuous monitor with an alarm set just below your AT. That way you don't have to think about your HR all the time, just when the alarm goes off. Useful for training yourself (and family if that's relevant) what you can and can't do.

    I also have a fingertip one (which is heavy and requires a button push) for times when I don't have the chest strap but need to know my HR -- mostly when I have to take my morning BP which is all over the place until my HR stablizes. I use the fingertip monitor to check my HR every few minutes until it's stable enough to make it worthwhile to take the BP reading. The fingertip one is also useful for showing people the difference in their HR and mine for similar activities. It can make a big impression, assuming that's an issue. Life is weird with this illness. :rolleyes:

    I have seen no significant change in my O2 reading, but I'm not checking it all day. I don't think it's a measure that helps. IIRC, the important measure is when your CO2 output stops increasing, meaning you aren't respiring aerobically and therefore need to use anaerobic metabolism. Maybe if they had a blood CO2 monitor it would help...?

    I had a continuous monitor once that also calculated energy consumption over time -- based on HR, I suppose. It was actually really useful once I figured out what my daily energy limit was. I could stay under my AT (barely) all day and still crash, so AT monitoring is not perfect. With energy consumption data I could make decisions about what to do (or not) later in the day depending on how close to my daily limit I was. Unfortunately, that monitor ran out of battery all the freakin' time and I had to send it in (and pay) to have the battery changed. Not worth it.

    FWIW, daughter and I have used the Omron brand for years with a lot of success.

    Sorry, Andrew, that was probably way more info than you wanted, but I guess my brakes don't work tonight. :oops:
    Valentijn likes this.
  3. Sushi

    Sushi Moderator and Senior Member Albuquerque

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    Andrew
    I regularly check my chest-strap/watch HR monitor with readings in the doctor's office and it is always spot on. I suspect that these may be the most accurate.

    Whatever type you decide on, make sure that you can change the battery yourself as the batteries only last about 6 months and some models require you to send it back to the factory. There are batteries both in the chest strap and the watch.

    A HR monitor is a big help, so good luck with this.

    Sushi

    P.S. I see that SOC mentioned the battery issue too!
    _June likes this.
  4. Sea

    Sea Senior Member

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    Sorry I don't know where to direct you for more information, but here's my thoughts...

    I also have an Omron with a chest strap and have found it to be accurate and useful. I found good reviews on it before I bought it. As Soc noted you need continuous monitoring with the alarm function for it to be useful for us. I have heard that the continuous wrist only ones are not very accurate but I have no experience with them.

    I also have a cheap oximeter, the fingertip one, that I bought from ebay. It works well inside but not so well if I walk outside where it seems to be affected by there being more light. It uses an infrared light to pick up the blood flow and calculate the oxygen levels. I'm glad that I have been able to check but I too haven't found any significant changes in my oxygen levels.
  5. Andrew

    Andrew Senior Member

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    Thanks for the tip about batteries.
    here are some: Omron, ePulse 2, Mio Alpha, Basis. I'm really not sure if any of these would suit us. From the little I've read, they don't seem like they are geared toward what we need. The other thing is, I've been reading that the Alpha is not out yet, but according to that site you can buy one. I put one in the cart there and that worked. So maybe you can. I just hope this is not presales. There are reviews for all of these on youtube. If any of you get one, please post about it.

    I guess what I'd really like is have a choice of sounding or showing an alarm when I go too high, and letting me download a record of what my heart rate is throughout the day. This includes letting me know if my heart is stopping for brief periods at night. I guess it would also be helpful if I had the option of sounding an alarm if my heart stops for longer than x seconds to wake me up. Do any of the strap ones do all of this?

    Also, can a strap one be worn in the shower or bath?

    BTW, I'm willing to buy more than one kind if need be.

    When do you do this? Do you take it before you sit up and get out of bed? What is your position when you take it?
    Valentijn likes this.
  6. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    Good to know about the finger pulse oximeter, which is what I use, including outside!

    Connie Sol, on the videos about Dr Klimas's protocol. says that wrist monitors have an error of up to 10-15% which is enough to make the protocol fail. They recommend the chest strap.
  7. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    At least one of wrist monitors listed by Andrew (Alpha Mio) has a built in motion sensor to counteract movement-based interference. And it's possible that even the optical wrist monitors without the motion sensor would be pretty accurate on us while we're relatively sedentary and not swinging our arms around.
  8. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    That's interesting - but I think we need the monitors especially when we're moving around so the latter type might not be much good!

    I wonder if the Alpha Mio has been tested against a monitor known to be reliable.
  9. SOC

    SOC Moderator and Senior Member

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    Mine says it's okay to use for swimming. The watch part also says "Water Resistant" on it. I assume that would be okay for showering, too. It's an Omron HR-100C.

    Because I have low blood volume, my BP and HR are all over the place in the morning. I have to sit up in bed for about 45 mins for them to stabilize enough to get consistent readings. During that 45 mins I read the news and my mail and drink 0.5 - .75 L of electrolyte water. I take my BP sitting in bed, so my feet aren't on the floor which isn't perfect, but it's okay for comparing from one day to the next.
  10. lnester7

    lnester7 Seven

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    My problem with the chest strap
    1) My bra pushes it down. Is a pain to keep it running.
    2) I have to put water in a few hours (get the conductors wet).
    3) No sexy smell. No matter how much baking soda I put or that I wash it everyday, by the end of the days my chest smell, and I cannot afford to be taking showers (it tires me out the most). But I do not want to be smelly for hubby either.
    _June likes this.
  11. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    I wonder if my finger pulse oximeter would have motion-based interference? I'm not swinging my arms much because I'm moving pretty slowly. But I wonder if they do in general?
  12. Sparrow

    Sparrow Senior Member

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    As far as I know, the chest strap version is the only one that is entirely reliable. And when the measurement is that important and the consequences of getting it wrong could be bad, I wouldn't mess around with it. Probably better to wear the chest strap once in a while than to get a more convenient model but an inaccurate picture of what's going on.

    I put my bra strap over top of the monitor, hooked to a looser setting. I've been using baby wipes to wipe down the monitor and myself after use, and they seem to be working okay so far without the strain of bathing. Husband approved. ;)

    I also don't wear mine every day, though. My routine is consistent enough that now that I have a general idea of where my heart is during different activities, I just put it back on now and then to double-check and see if anything's changed. I've been thinking of getting one of the other models to have as an additional source of info for the days I don't have it on, but I wouldn't put much trust in the readings.
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  13. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    Maybe you're right. I'm reluctant to get another chest strap model - I got one a couple of years ago and got on with it so badly that I ended up selling it on Ebay. I got very confused about how to set it up (I had to phone Omron and even though I made notes I couldn't remember what to do). The battery went flat very quickly and I had the same bra-strap issue. :confused:

    You're right, too important to muck about with, though.
  14. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    I'm not sure ... but the chest and fore-arm ones use different technology (detecting electrical pulses) than the wrist ones (optics). I think the electrical pulses wouldn't be interrupted by jumping around. Though my chest band would crap out any time the surface dried out ... so if I wasn't sweating regularly, it would stop transmitting data.

    Basically I hate the chest strap and have trouble using it, so might give a wrist unit a try.
  15. Andrew

    Andrew Senior Member

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    What I read about the wrist detectors that use reflected light is that if you are running your arms are moving back and forth with enough speed to make the device slide back and forth, thus throwing off the measurement. This could have given them a bad reputation for use with every situation. But without knowing which studies they are citing, we can't check.
    Sasha likes this.
  16. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    Argh, I'd forgotten about having to keep the chest band wet. Yes, what a pain.

    The finger thing works optically as well but I'm not sure if it's on the same basis as the wrist thing since it seems to be shooting a signal through your finger (I think). Here's Wikipedia on the finger thing:

    Typically it utilizes a pair of small light-emitting diodes (LEDs) facing a photodiode through a translucent part of the patient's body, usually a fingertip or an earlobe. One LED is red, with wavelength of 660 nm, and the other is infrared, 905, 910, or 940 nm. Absorption at these wavelengths differs significantly between oxyhemoglobin and its deoxygenated form; therefore, the oxy/deoxyhemoglobin ratio can be calculated from the ratio of the absorption of the red and infrared light. The absorbance of oxyhemoglobin and deoxyhemoglobin is the same (isosbestic point) for the wavelengths of 590 and 805 nm; earlier equipment used these wavelengths for correction of hemoglobin concentration.[33]
    The monitored signal fluctuates in time with the heart beat because the arterial blood vessels expand and contract with each heartbeat. By examining only the varying part of theabsorption spectrum (essentially, subtracting minimum absorption from peak absorption), a monitor can ignore other tissues or nail polish, (though black nail polish tends to distort readings)[34] and discern only the absorption caused by arterial blood. Thus, detecting a pulse is essential to the operation of a pulse oximeter and it will not function if there is none.
  17. Andrew

    Andrew Senior Member

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    I looked into this a little more. I don't see how they can conclude these are inaccurate. The Omron one is not even on the market yet. The MIO one was released in December. The ePulse is not even a wrist device (it's a forearm device). And the Basis (after I looked into this more) probably doesn't sample often enough for the type of continuous monitoring we need. So that means there are only two devices to ponder, and I'm at a loss to figure out when they could have tested these.
    Valentijn likes this.
  18. snowathlete

    snowathlete

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    Before I was ill, I was quite sporty and bought a strap monitor with a watch. It was excellent. I could get data on my rate in real time, etc., maximum rate (213 for me - which caused me to go to the Docs, but he didnt think it was a problem as i was fit). It never lost signal, always very accurate. Uncomfortable for general wear though and with ME i tried it and found it too tight because my chest isnt as strong as it used to be. So thats type 1.

    My cycle machine that i can no longer use has type 2, and i compared the two and found they both worked as well as each other.

    type 5, i have one of these for sleep, screen on the finger device itself. It measures heartrate (very accurate) and oxygen concentration. I used this to confirm that my oxygen rate was dropping in sleep to the 80% range (should be in the 90s, preferably high 90s) I decided to lose weight and this worked (stopped the rate dropping into the 80% range. Good idea about measuring anaerobic respiration. I did some tests to see what my heartrate did in daytime. cant remember the results but i did keep a record, could look it up.

    In summary, all the ones above I found to be very accurate.
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  19. Sushi

    Sushi Moderator and Senior Member Albuquerque

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    Polar used to make a sports bra that allowed you to thread a chest strap through it--though it was pricey. I see now that they make a bra with the sensors built in

    (http://www.amazon.com/Polar-Cardio-...59746970&sr=8-1&keywords=polar heart rate bra)

    also pricey and I don't know what kind of batteries they use. I'd guess if you could find the other model (the thread through one) you could use it with any brand monitor.

    They also list one strap where the sensors are built into the fabric of the strap--which should be more comfortable. My only gripe with polar is that the models I had had to be sent back to the factory for a battery change.

    I have been using a Sigma HR Monitor (German) that is over ten years old and still works perfectly--and you can change both batteries yourself. I don't know what their newer models are like but I see that they have a basic entry model for about $50--
    Sigma Sport PC 3.11 Heart Rate Monitor

    Sushi
  20. Sasha

    Sasha Fine, thank you

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    How did you determine that it was accurate? I'm wondering how to determine that about my Chinese-made Ebay purchase (the very definition of lack of consumer confidence!).

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