Health

The budget health gadgets that can save you up to £1,400 

A top-of-the-range toothbrush can now set you back up to £500 — but is it worth spending that much? Just about every medical gadget has a high-end option, but often this is for fancy extras. 

So, whether you are choosing a blood pressure monitor or bathroom scales, JUDITH KEELING talks to experts about which bargain buys to go for that will do the job without breaking the bank. 

We worked out how much you’d save by comparing each to the price of a top-of-the-range gadget. 

Blood pressure monitor

Best buy: Omron M2 basic blood pressure device for upper arm, £25.99, argos.co.uk

Saving: £248

Expert comment: One in four adults in the UK has high blood pressure (a consistent reading of 140/90 or above), which puts you at higher risk of heart disease and kidney damage.

All of these people — and everyone over the age of 40 — are recommended to have regular blood pressure checks and the easiest way to keep an eye on this is with an at-home monitor.

Upmarket devices can cost hundreds of pounds, but Sultan Dajani, a pharmacist in Hampshire, says: ‘All blood pressure monitors use the same technology. You just need one with a cuff that wraps around the upper arm [not the wrist, which can be inaccurate] — it inflates and measures the strength of arterial blood flow. All monitors are equally accurate if they have a CE mark (meaning they meet the European quality standards).

‘Take three readings, two or three times a week, at the same time of day each time, as blood pressure levels can vary between morning, afternoon and evening.’

Omron M2 basic blood pressure device for upper arm

Electric toothbrush  

Best buy: Oral B Pro 650, £27.99, chemist-4-u.com

Savings: £472.01

Oral B Pro 650

Oral B Pro 650

Expert comment: James Goolnik, a dentist at Bow Lane Dental Group in London, says: ‘So long as you brush for two minutes and use the correct technique with gentle circular movements, moving from the outside of the teeth to the biting surface — and then to the inside of the teeth — there is no need to spend hundreds on a fancy electric toothbrush.

‘An electric brush is better than a manual one as the right pressure required to clean teeth is more consistent (many will vibrate or beep if you are applying too much pressure, which can damage teeth and gums), and many have a timer to ensure you brush for long enough. This budget-friendly Oral B brush does both.

‘The latest brush from this brand costs almost £500 — it links to your phone via bluetooth, monitors the pressure of your brushing and sends reports to your dentist — but this isn’t necessary for optimal oral health.’

First aid kit

Best buy: Guardsy Mini First Aid Kit, £8.85, amazon.co.uk

Saving: £91.15

Expert comment: Dr Fiona Bishop, a GP based in Leicestershire, says: ‘You need certain items in a first aid kit: bandages, plasters, antiseptic wipes, a freezing spray, foil blanket, torch, CPR face shield (a plastic covering which allows mouth-to-mouth to be given), gloves, tweezers and painkillers.

‘But this doesn’t have to cost the earth. A pack such as this is very good value for money considering it contains everything apart from the painkillers (which will cost an extra 30p to add in yourself).

‘It’s easy to pay a lot for specialist plasters or large bags with fancy pockets and stitching — a few even cost around £100 — but this does the same job. Remember this is only for first aid at home: for anything serious, go to A&E or call an ambulance.’

Guardsy Mini First Aid Kit

Guardsy Mini First Aid Kit

Thermometer

Best buys: Digital, Braun PRT 1000 3 in 1 Thermometer, £8.96. amazon.co.uk; or contactless, Berrcom Forehead thermometer, £25.79, amazon.co.uk

Saving: £91.04 for digital; £74.21 for contactless

Digital, Braun PRT 1000 3 in 1 Thermometer, £8.96. amazon.co.uk ; or contactless

Digital, Braun PRT 1000 3 in 1 Thermometer, £8.96. amazon.co.uk ; or contactless

Expert comment: Pharmacist Sultan Dajani says: ‘You can pay nearly £100 for a thermometer, but you don’t need to. The cheapest option — while maintaining accuracy — is a digital thermometer (which you place under the tongue, armpits or rectally).

‘This detects physical temperature and converts it into electrical energy to give a digital reading. Make sure you sanitise it with an alcohol swab between uses.

‘Some people prefer to use a contactless thermometer, given the current climate and the risk of contamination.

‘These use infrared radiation to determine the surface heat of an object.

‘This works on the principle that every object that does not have an absolute zero temperature has atoms moving within it; these move quicker the higher the temperature and the thermometer measures the radiation these faster-moving atoms emit.

‘You hold the contactless thermometer 3cm away from a person’s forehead to take a reading.

‘Always look for the CE mark and only buy from a reputable pharmacy or supermarket.’

Pulse oximeter 

Best buy: Anapulse ANP100 finger pulse oximeter, £19.73, amazon.co.uk

Saving: £115.26

Anapulse ANP100 finger pulse oximeter

Anapulse ANP100 finger pulse oximeter

Expert comment: A recent addition to many of our medicine cabinets thanks to the pandemic, a pulse oximeter clips on to your finger and measures blood oxygen levels. Low levels are a sign that Covid-19 symptoms are worsening — it is also useful for those with chronic lung and heart conditions.

Sultan Dajani says: ‘This small device shoots different wavelengths of light through the small blood vessels in your finger in order to assess the amount of oxygen in your blood.

‘A normal reading is 95 per cent or higher: if your resting reading is much lower or quickly drops away from normal, you should seek medical attention.

‘There’s a big variation in price — one costs £134.99, for instance, and you get an integrated watch function. But all pulse oximeters work in exactly the same way and are equally accurate — so paying more is unnecessary.’

Blood sugar monitor 

Best buy: TEE2+ blood glucose meter, £9.99, amazon.co.uk

Saving: £55

TEE2+ blood glucose meter

TEE2+ blood glucose meter

Expert comment: ‘People who have diabetes or who are at risk of it should have a blood glucose monitor at home,’ says Sultan Dajani.

‘If their blood sugar levels are consistently too high it can damage tissue and lead to heart attacks, strokes, organ failure and amputations. Meanwhile, very low blood sugar levels, or hypoglycaemia, can make patients faint or have seizures.

‘Monitors can cost as much as £65, but they all use the same technology; a pinprick test in which a drop of blood from your finger is placed on a strip containing a chemical that detects the amount of sugar. This is inserted into a device that gives a reading in a few seconds. This budget version is perfectly fine.

‘A healthy range is 4 to 8; see your GP if your levels are consistently below or above this.’

Bathroom scales

Best buy: Salter Glass Electronic Scale, £15, argos.co.uk

Saving: £384

Expert comment: Hannah Whittaker, an NHS dietitian and spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association, says: ‘High-tech bathroom scales can cost hundreds of pounds and claim to give you additional measurements such as the percentage of body fat or hydration levels.

‘But studies show that readings can be unreliable, for example, for body fat composition they can be inaccurate by up to 30 per cent.

‘In any case, most people don’t require anything this elaborate. Standard bathroom scales can cost as little as £15 — all you need to do is monitor for big changes.

‘Work out if you need to lose weight by calculating your BMI (body mass index) with the NHS calculator which is available on the NHS website.

‘Crucially, body fat scales also don’t give an accurate picture of the amount of visceral fat you may be carrying — the most dangerous type of fat which collects around internal organs, raising your risk of disease. So as well as monitoring weight, check your waist measurement, with a tape measure (which can cost as little as £1.20 from supermarkets). Any reading over 31.5in for a woman and 36in for a man means you need to lose weight, regardless of what scales may tell you.’

Salter Glass Electronic Scale

Salter Glass Electronic Scale

Secrets of an A-list body: How to get the enviable physiques of the stars 

This week: Kylie Minogue’s calf muscles

Kylie oozed glamour in a blue velvet gown split to the thigh that also revealed her toned calf muscles

Kylie oozed glamour in a blue velvet gown split to the thigh that also revealed her toned calf muscles

Kylie oozed glamour in a blue velvet gown split to the thigh that also revealed her toned calf muscles.

The 52-year-old singer has said her workout routine is sporadic, but she’s constantly ‘on the go’, and dances and occasionally does aerobics and bodyweight exercises to stay in shape. 

‘I do Pilates,’ she has said. ‘And when I’m in a hotel, I sometimes go to the gym. But I don’t overdo it.’

What to try: For calf muscles with definition, try the seated calf raise. Sit on a chair with your feet flat on the ground and hold a dumbbell or bottle of water in each hand, positioning the weights on top of your thighs. 

Keeping your abdominal muscles engaged and back straight, lift your heels off the ground as high as possible, really working the calf muscles to raise the legs and weights. 

Slowly lower your heels back down to the ground and repeat, doing as many as you can in 30 seconds. Aim for three to five sets and do this at least three times a week. 


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