After spending 20 hours researching more than 50 blood pressure monitors, interviewing medical professionals, and testing 10 finalists with a group of nursing professors and students at the University of Texas Nursing School, we can say the best blood pressure monitor for most people to use at home is the Omron Series 10 with Bluetooth. Not everyone needs a blood pressure monitor, but those with high blood pressure (a third of Americans) or concerns about it will find a blood pressure monitor is a relatively inexpensive investment in one’s health.
Of all the models we tested, the Omron Series 10 was the most accurate, had the most comfortable cuff, and possessed the best combination of useful features—a Bluetooth connection to transmit data to your smartphone for easier health trend tracking, the ability to average three tests taken within a 10-minute window for improved accuracy, and irregular heartbeat detection. It features an easy-to use interface and was also the only monitor we tested with a backlit display.
Those who want to spend less than $50 on a blood pressure monitor should turn to Walmart. Its ReliOn BP 200 blood pressure monitor (made by Omron) is usually $25 to $30 cheaper than our main pick. The ReliOn BP200 is accurate, tracks heart rate, and stores a month’s worth of daily readings for two people. It does have a slightly trickier cuff than the Omron 10, however, and it can’t use Bluetooth to connect to your phone.
Those who need to check blood pressures for more than two people regularly should look at the A&D 767F. It fared well in our accuracy tests, comes with a nice case and easy-to-read display, and is priced similarly to our budget pick. It is the only option we tested with the ability to track four users, so if you have more than two people in your home—perhaps aging parents—who need to monitor their blood pressure, this could be the best choice. The cuff is tighter on the arm than our top pick and the machine is louder, but not terribly so.
Roughly one in three Americans have high blood pressure (aka hypertension), according to the Centers for Disease Control, and the same number have symptoms of pre-hypertension, or blood pressure that is higher than normal but not yet classified as high. This is a significant proportion of the population with a very real problem. High blood pressure forces your heart to work harder and puts more of a burden on your entire system. Seventy percent of heart attacks happen in patients who have high blood pressure, and 80 percent of stroke victims also have hypertension.
The American Heart Association has identified high blood pressure as measuring over 140/90 mmHg for adults over the age of 20, and pre-hypertension as 120/80 mmHg or above. (Anything below 120/80 mmHg is considered normal for adults over age 20.) The two numbers, by the way, refer to the pressure of blood against your blood vessel walls. The top number is the systolic pressure, measured when the heart beats; the bottom number is the diastolic pressure, measured when the heart rests between beats.
While there are many drugs to treat hypertension and people can also adjust their diets and exercise more, doctors (and the American Heart Association) recommend a blood pressure monitor for home use to help people at risk manage their conditions. Home monitoring is meant to be done along with—not in place of—regular monitoring by a physician. Its daily use can help a person track their blood pressure and alert them to get to the hospital before they experience a stroke or heart attack. (Home monitoring is also useful for patients whose blood pressure tends to spike during stressful doctor’s office visits.)
You can’t physically feel when your blood pressure is too high—it’s a condition that only reveals itself when tested. Regular monitoring is thus key in at-risk patients. This includes diabetics, those who have hypertension and certain heart conditions, and pregnant women at risk for preeclampsia (a potentially life-threatening pregnancy disorder characterized by high blood pressure).
Some “quantified self” fanatics look at blood pressure as an indicator of overall health, though they are doing so out of general curiosity rather than following any established medical guidelines.
There are four different types of basic blood pressure monitors available for home use: upper arm monitors that automatically inflate at the touch of a button, upper arm monitors that require the user to pump a bladder to inflate them manually, monitors that measure blood pressure at the wrist, and fingertip monitors. (There are also smartphone apps that purport to take blood pressure readings directly from your phone, but those are not accurate, and we did not include them in our testing.)
For this guide, we decided not to review wrist or fingertip monitors because they are not recommended by the American Heart Association, and major insurers such as Aetna don’t reimburse patients for them because they question the accuracy. According to Dr. Bruce Alpert, former co-chair of the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation Sphygmomanometer Committee, accuracy in wrist and fingertip monitors can be compromised by the type of algorithm the manufacturer uses to compensate for reading further away from your heart.
The most important element of a blood pressure monitor is its accuracy. This is determined by the blood pressure machine itself (technically, it’s called a sphygmomanometer), and by the size of the cuff. The conditions under which you measure your blood pressure—from time of day to body position—matter as well, no matter the machine, according to both Dr. Alpert and to Dr. Leigh Goldstein at the University of Texas School of Nursing.
Our experts recommend that a monitor not deviate more than 10 mmHg of pressure from your doctor’s reading. (That’s one reason why almost all doctors will ask a patient to bring in their monitor to compare it to readings taken in their offices by a trained professional.) Each blood pressure monitor manufacturer has developed its own algorithm for calculating how the measurement of pressure on your arm translates into the actual numbers that appear on the monitor, an Omron spokesman told us. Keep in mind that none of the monitors we tested can be calibrated after the fact, so check product websites carefully for accreditations and remember to keep your receipt.
To achieve the best accuracy at home, you should pay careful attention to the testing method and the fit of the cuff that wraps around your arm. If the cuff is the wrong size, your reading will be off. According to both Goldstein and Alpert, using a blood pressure cuff that’s too small can cause a patient’s systolic blood pressure skew higher. Many blood pressure monitors come with the option of different cuff sizes, so opt for the one that fits the circumference of your arm.
Once you’re sure you have an accurate monitor that fits, the second component of getting an accurate result is paying careful attention to the process of taking the test. Goldstein recommends taking a blood pressure reading in the morning before getting out of bed for the day. Sit upright with your back supported and both feet on the floor. (No leg crossing.) Ideally, the cuff should be placed on the arm for five minutes without moving or talking before taking a reading. Other than the time of day, this is how I conducted my tests for both accuracy and comfort.
In addition to accuracy, features to look for in a quality upper-arm model include memory for storing blood pressure readings so you can compare the trends over time and irregular pulse detection. This is a useful feature because while an irregular heartbeat may not mean anything significant, it could be a sign that your heart is struggling to pump enough blood. While on its own it may not necessarily be something to be alarmed about, if it’s consistent, you’d want to talk to your doctor.
Nice-to-have elements include the ability to store readings for multiple people, to average three blood pressure measurements over a short period (for greater accuracy), and to send data to a service like Apple’s HealthKit or other fitness tracking service. A choice of multiple cuff sizes is a bonus.
In general, there are three pricing tiers for these machines. The cheapest models sell for roughly $30-$45 and offer the ability to store between 30-60 readings and take your pulse. A few may offer irregular heartbeat detection, but that’s not true across the board. The next level up costs between $60 and $85, can sync with a smartphone, and has more storage, irregular heartbeat detection, and the ability to save results for two people. The highest-tier “smart” models, priced between $100 to $130, send the data from the cuff directly to a smartphone without using an external hardware monitor.
In deciding which models to test, we followed the recommendation of the American Heart Association and looked for monitors that have been tested by the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, the British Hypertension Society, or the International Protocol for the Validation of Automated Blood Pressure Measuring Devices.
We looked for cuffs that were comfortable (not too tight, and not too loose) and easy to put on. Measuring blood pressure by yourself is an exercise in awkwardness as you try to wrap the cuff around your arm one-handed; get too frustrated and your BP will skyrocket. All the models we tested had a cuff that velcroed around the upper arm, but some had a stiffer ring that a patient could insert their arm into and then tighten the fastener; those tended to be easier to manipulate.
Some monitors offer large displays that are easily readable by those without perfect eyesight. (Remember you’re supposed to use these in the morning; your contacts may not be in yet.) Some show the basic systolic and diastolic pressure data and nothing else on the display, while other models include the pulse and even an averaging feature that will automatically take blood pressure three times in a row and average them together for a more accurate reading. Others will let you manually take your blood pressure three times within a 10-minute period and then average them together. This helps those who might be nervous the first time around when they take their blood pressure (which can lead to high readings).
We brought 10 of the most promising blood pressure monitors that satisfied our basic criteria to the University of Texas School of Nursing, where nine volunteers tried on all of the cuffs after getting a baseline reading on the UT equipment. (One of the connected cuffs we were considering, the Qardio Arm, ran out of batteries the day of the test, so it wasn’t tested as part of the group. More about this one later.) The goal was to get a variety of user impressions and to test the accuracy of the monitors against a professionally taken blood pressure on equipment you might find in a doctor’s office or hospital setting.
Each participant started with a blood pressure reading from the lab’s equipment, taken by two professors, each registered nurses. Each person then tested all nine monitors, comparing their baseline blood pressure against the test unit’s reading. Because the repeated constriction of the blood vessels in the arm during multiple tests will affect the accuracy of later readings, we only took the first two readings on each cuff into consideration when determining accuracy, looking overall for cuffs that read within the 10 mmHg of pressure suggested by doctors.
All participants took their tests sitting down with their back supported (though in the interest of time, we did not adhere throughout testing to the recommended five minutes of rest between tests). Each participant also had the option of writing their impressions of each monitor and cuff after the reading. They considered the comfort of the cuff, ease of putting it on and reading the display, and any other factors they thought were important. Some made comments about how long the monitor took to read their blood pressure and the volume of the monitor as it worked. Many of these areas are subjective, and some, like the speed of the reading, will vary from person to person, but we looked for commonalities in their input. At the end of the group testing, we continued with further tests for the five models that tested most accurately with the student nurses.
The Omron Series 10 with Bluetooth measured the most accurately in our tests, has the most comfortable cuff, and was the only one we tested with a backlit display. The Omron offered the best balance of necessary and nice-to-have features that ensure accuracy of measurement and help users track trends in their health.
The Omron 10 provided 7 out of the 9 testers with results that fell within the 10-mmHg variation from the school’s testing equipment that doctors recommend for home monitors. Those two testers that measured out of range were still within 15 mmHg of pressure as measured by professional equipment.
The cuff is comfortable and easy to put on, especially compared to floppier cuffs such as the ones on the A&D monitors. One nursing student noted that the Omron 10’s “stiff cuff makes it easier to put on yourself” and another said, “the reinforced cuff ensures a good fit around the arm.” Another did say that the cuff “hurts on the upper arm for larger people.” Fortunately, the cuff does come in a size larger than the one we tested. The cuff has a dot and a diagram that tells you how to align the cuff against your artery running down the inside of your arm, a common feature among the ones we tested. In our tests, taking blood pressure was quiet and fairly quick, although everyone will experience different times based on the size of their arms and their blood pressure.
The Omron monitor itself is lightweight, even with batteries installed. It can store readings for two users, and it has an easy-to-use switch on the face of the monitor to toggle between each person’s results. It can detect an irregular heart rate and will automatically take the user’s blood pressure three times in a row and average them together for the most accurate results. Other models will let you do this manually, but we think it’s far more convenient if you don’t have to remember to do it. The Omron 10 Series can connect to a smartphone app like Apple’s HealthKit that stores your data and provides trending information, like whether your blood pressure is improving or getting worse over time.
We also appreciate that though the Omron offers this functionality, it doesn’t tie you to using a smartphone. You don’t need to set up the app to get your results. You can store up to 200 results on the device at a time, which means 100 blood pressure readings (more than three months of readings) per person. A neat bonus is the ability to hold down the Start/Stop button to take a guest blood pressure reading that won’t be stored in memory, handy for that one-off blood pressure reading you may want to take.
Setting up the Omron 10 is fairly simple. In fact, all of the BP monitors (other than those that relied on a smartphone), required the same basic steps to get them working. You take the monitor and cuff from the box, install the batteries (they all came with their own batteries, usually four AAs), close the battery compartment (none required a screw), and then connect the cuff tubing to a socket in the monitor to get started.
If you start by downloading the Omron Wellness app for your Android or iOS device, the app will walk you through the setup. Sending the data to an app is a simpler way to chart your blood pressure over an extended period of time and lets you turn that data into easily understandable trend graphs. Should you choose not to use the app, a quick look at the well-laid-out instruction manual will help you to set the monitor up quickly. You’ll want to set the time and date, which is as easy as pressing a button and moving two additional buttons printed with up and down arrows on the device.
To pair it to your phone using Bluetooth, you hit the same button used to set the time and wait a few seconds for a “P” to appear on the display. Once you accept the pairing from your phone, there’s a little action on the app and suddenly your data transfers. The app shows your readings on a graph, a much nicer and more useful user interface than scrolling back individually through 100 previous readings on the monitor itself.
Setting it apart from all other monitors we reviewed in depth, the Omron 10’s display is backlit, which makes all your data easily readable. It also shows your pulse in huge, easy-to-read type and lets you know if that pulse is irregular. Those with high blood pressure not only will see the numbers telling them their systolic pressure (that top number) is above 140 mmHg but also will get a little orange light on the display. If your BP is normal, you get a green light. The Omron 10 will also show an alarm if you move during the test (putting you in danger of getting an inaccurate reading). If you try other ways to mess up the test, such as taking your reading over your clothes, you’ll get an error message.
The Omron 10 also has a feature to manually overinflate the cuff, which comes in handy for those with high blood pressure (though I wasn’t able to personally test this). Not all home blood pressure monitors can handle people with blood pressure that’s too high. In the Omron 10’s case (as well as the similar Omron 7) if your systolic pressure is over 210 mmHg, you’ll need to wait until the cuff starts to inflate and then press the stop/start button to force the cuff to inflate more. When it gets to 30 mmHg or so above your expected blood pressure, release the start/stop button and then let the monitor finish the cycle. The monitor doesn’t inflate over 299 mmHg, and overinflating might lead to bruising, so don’t try to manually overinflate unless it’s necessary.
The Omron 10 comes with an industry-standard 5-year warranty on the monitor and 1-year warranty on the cuff. You can buy cuffs in different sizes if your arm is smaller or larger than the cuff that comes in the box.
We’re not the only ones that like the Omron 10 series: Consumer Reports counts it as a “recommended” monitor (subscription required) and gave it its top overall score for BP monitors, 84 out of 100. Meanwhile, reviewers on Amazon gave it 4.3 out of 5 stars over more than 2,000 reviews. The biggest complaints appear to be related to the app performance, but I had no trouble. Most of those reviews were also almost two years old, and it’s likely Omron has improved things since then.
The biggest hurdle for most people may be price, which falls in the middle range of all the monitors we tested. You are paying more for the Bluetooth connection, but it may not make sense to buy a blood pressure monitor with Bluetooth if you don’t think you’ll connect it with your smartphone. In that case, check out our budget pick, a good monitor but with fewer features.
The Omron 10 comes with both batteries and an AC adapter. But unlike many of the blood pressure cuffs in this price range, it doesn’t come with a case, though that shouldn’t be a big deal unless you plan on traveling with it often.
The ReliOn BP200 is a more basic blood pressure monitor than the Omron 10, lacking some features and leaving out Bluetooth, but it’s affordable and simple enough for most people to use. It was not as accurate as our main pick for the testing group as a whole but did measure within the recommended 10 mmHg for the first two testers. It also provides an irregular heart rate monitor and has a screen that is easy to read (though it’s not backlit).
In our tests at the University of Texas, users were evenly divided on how they viewed the cuff associated with this monitor. Four people found it really difficult to get on tightly, but the rest found it to be easy. The ReliOn cuff does provide very clear instructions on how to orient the cuff on your arm. But instead of having a stiff plastic ring to place your arm through, the ReliOn’s cuff is entirely flexible, which can make it tricky to tighten using one hand. Initially I struggled to tighten the cuff and keep it aligned with my artery without it sliding off the correct portion of my arm. However, I did get more proficient over time, so if finger mobility isn’t a problem, this monitor could be right for you. (If dexterity is a concern, consider the Omron 10 and its more rigid cuff. It is possible to buy the nicer Omron FL31 cuff that that the Omron 10 series uses and replace the one that comes with the ReliOn, but that brings the price you’d pay up to the same as our top pick, and you’d still miss out on the smartphone sync, three-reading averaging and other features.)
The ReliOn cuff and instructions both say that the machine was made by Omron. So if Walmart is reselling a lower-end Omron under its own brand, it’s no wonder we found a lot of similarities between the products. The ReliOn is lightweight, even with 4 AA batteries inside, weighing just an ounce more than our main pick. It comes with batteries, but not a case or adapter. The face and machine itself have a cheaper quality to them, and the screen is much smaller than the Omron 10’s. The ReliOn is mostly plastic; many of the other models we looked at had a glass cover.
Like the Omron, our budget pick can store data for two users and has the simple-to-use toggle on the front of the machine to switch users. However, the lower price only gets you storage for 60 readings per user—a total of 120 readings. You’re looking at about two months of once-a-day BP readings. This model doesn’t have Bluetooth, so it won’t share your data with a smartphone or any apps or services.
Unlike our top pick, this monitor doesn’t have a feature that automatically takes three readings in a row to average them. However, you can take three readings on your own within a 10-minute time frame and it will then average them. And like the Omron 10, it also has a motion-detection function that lets you know if your reading was disrupted by your movement.
The ReliOn read my blood pressure through a tight-fitting shirt sleeve while the Omron 10 (correctly) gave me an error message. You might think reading your blood pressure through a shirt is convenient, but this is a strike against the ReliOn: those readings are less likely to be accurate, and it’s better when a monitor keeps you from self-sabotage, as the Omron 10 does.
Like our main pick, this monitor comes with warranty coverage for five years and the cuff for one. The instructions on the ReliOn suggest that the four batteries provided should last through 1,000 measurements.
The A&D 767F is the only monitor we found with the ability to track four users, so if you have multiple people in the home who need to monitor their blood pressure, it’s a good option. Its comfort and ease of use was polarizing among the testers. But for less than $40, it is accurate and comes with a nice case and easy-to-read display.
It can store up to 240 measurements, or two months of daily readings per four people. It also can detect irregular heartbeats and will indicate if you move too much during the test for an accurate reading. In my tests of detecting movement, however, it tended to show me an irregular heartbeat symbol instead of saying that I moved, which I found confusing.
I found the cuff to be tight and the inflation process extremely loud for day-to-day use. Other testers complained about the cuff overinflating and hurting their arms. It does inflate and deflate relatively quickly, especially compared to the Omron, which took about 25 percent longer. However, how long the cuff takes to inflate and deflate depends in part on your blood pressure.
Getting to the stored data was a bit complicated because you only have one push button to use to switch between all four users. Setting the time and toggling between users is done by pushing the same button, which means reading the instructions for this monitor is a must. The instructions are, at least, easy to understand.
Another Consumer-Reports-recommended blood pressure monitor, the A&D scored 4.1 stars out of 5 for Amazon users. However, there were only 31 reviews. Of those reviews, the biggest complaints were about error messages and having to remove clothing to get sufficient access to a bare arm to take your blood pressure. Since movement or even having clothing in the way can generate error messages, it’s impossible to know if these indicate actual problems with the product or are a reflection of the difficulties users have had navigating the interface.
There is an emerging class of devices on the market that bypass the traditional monitor and use your smartphone instead. There are several apps that claim to offer accurate blood pressure test results by “listening” to your heartbeat when you place the phone near your heart, but a JAMA article published this year suggests those apps are inaccurate. The study showed that the apps falsely reassured people with hypertension that they were fine 77.5 percent of the time.
But what about traditional blood pressure cuffs that are paired with an app? Based on our research and testing, we found the options to be overly expensive (most cost over $100) and not worth the cost. The primary advantage they have is that they can hold as much data as your smartphone does: Assuming you have the space, you could store years of data instead of just two or three months at a time. But the models currently available from Withings and Qardio were not that much smaller than most standard monitors, and most importantly, they generally fare poorly in tests of accuracy, according to Consumer Reports. The Qardio model that we tested received a “poor” accuracy rating, while the Withings scored a “good” rating on accuracy. Dr. Alpert was also skeptical. If having readings available on your smartphone matters to you, spending half the cost on the Omron 10 with Bluetooth is a much cheaper and more accurate option.
Withings’s Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor is the only smart blood pressure monitor that connects to your smartphone or tablet to deliver a reading that made it to our final round of testing. The device consists of a metal bar that has an on/off switch and an attached cuff. The bar is meant to go on the inside of your arm, which makes it slightly awkward to wear. To start the monitoring, you have to open the Withings app on your iOS or Android device and then turn on the cuff using a tiny button on the metal bar.
For anyone with low dexterity, turning the monitor on will be an issue: the button is tiny and tough to press. The device turns itself off after a few moments of inactivity. Once activated, the plastic cuff inflates quietly and quickly, displaying your blood pressure and heart rate on your phone. You can switch between users, but to do so, you must re-pair the cuff with the new user’s phone and their Withings HealthMate account, which amounts to a lot more work than any of the other monitors we tested.
The UT Nursing students found the cuff a little difficult to put on and some of them worried how older people would view using the technology. From an accuracy standpoint, it was in range of 10 mmHg for only 3 out of the 9 testers, and the first two testers were off by 14 mmHg and 13 mmHg on the systolic number but within range on the diastolic. For the price, it’s pretty difficult to recommend this one, as it doesn’t offer much more than the others.
The Qardio Arm Smart Blood Pressure Monitor, which was the only other “smart” cuff we tested, seemed accurate in my initial tests. But because it won’t turn off unless it is closed properly, it tends to run out of batteries very easily, including on the day of our planned UT nursing school tests. During my own use, I had to replace its batteries twice over a period of a week. The high potential for user error and its loudness while measuring blood pressure makes it impossible for us to recommend.
The Omron 7 series BP761 made it to the second round of testing with the nursing students. It’s very similar to the 10 series: Both have the same cuff design, which lets the user slip their arm through a pre-formed ring and then wrap a longer strip of velcro around to tighten. They also have the same interface, display, and ability to connect with a phone. The major difference is that the 7 series only stores 120 readings whereas the Series 10 stores 200. It also lacks the backlit display and won’t automatically take three tests in a row and average them. And unfortunately, there’s not much difference in price to account for those missing features. The 7 series typically costs only $10 less than the 10 series, which makes it tough to recommend unless our main pick is out of stock.
We eliminated the other BP monitors we brought to the group test as being too inaccurate and for other issues, such as the cuff being too uncomfortable for a wide range of users.
Both of the Panasonic monitors, the EW3109W and EW-BU35W, had cuffs that were too small, even for people with smaller arms. That made the readings less accurate and the cuff uncomfortable. Panasonic sells a larger cuff for around $26 more, but compared with the others which had larger cuffs, the Panasonic seemed exclusionary. The more expensive Panasonic (the EW-BU35W) does offer a trending graph on the monitor itself, while the cheaper of the two (the EW3109W) was the smallest and most portable of all we tried.
The A&D UA-651BLE with Bluetooth was deemed too difficult to put on by five of the testers, although it was accurate. I couldn’t connect the cuff to my Android phone (a Nexus 5X running the latest version of Android), but I could connect it to an iPhone 6.
We eliminated the Rite Aid Deluxe Automatic BP3AR1-4DRITE because it read incredibly high for the participants. The systolic pressure (the top number) was between 30 mmHg of pressure and 50 mmHg of pressure off, while the diastolic was generally within range.
The blood pressure monitor consists of a machine that connects to an inflatable cuff via a tube. Generally when you unpack the monitor, you’ll have to insert the batteries and connect the cuff to the monitor. If you don’t use batteries, you’ll need an AC adapter. Only some models come with one.
You want to avoid pulling on the tube, dropping the monitor or banging it around. These aren’t fragile, but they are calibrated machines that can get out of whack. Inside each cuff is a bladder that inflates and deflates to take your blood pressure. If the bladder is punctured or doesn’t work, you’ll need to replace the cuff. Over time the velcro holding the cuff together will wear, so when it no longer maintains a good hold, you’ll want to replace it, even if the bladder is fine.
Most blood pressure monitors are warrantied for between one and five years, while the cuffs are usually warrantied for one. Buying a replacement cuff can range from $15 to $25, but unless you stick with the same brand, there’s no guarantee the cuff will fit. Like any device that has batteries, if you don’t plan to use it for a while, you should remove the batteries from the monitor.
The Omron Evolv is an FDA-approved, HealthKit-compatible wireless blood pressure monitor that has a start/stop button and a large-font OLED display for reading results—you don’t need to use your smartphone to take and monitor each reading. This design makes it useful for anyone who wants a portable monitor for taking blood pressure readings while traveling but doesn’t want to rely on a phone.
It’s simple to set up and use: Just strap it onto your upper arm, press the dedicated start/stop button, and look at the reading. Press start/stop again to turn it off. It stores your last 100 readings along with the date and time, but you can see only the most recent reading unless you sync it with your phone. (The Omron Connect App currently supports Apple HealthKit, with Google Health compatibility in the works.) It should last 300 readings on a set of four AAA batteries.
The Evolv just recently hit store shelves and is available for about $75, which is a bit steep compared with non-tubeless options, but that amount buys a compact, travel-friendly package and a long warranty (five years—two years longer than the coverage for its closest competitor).
(Photos by Stacey Higginbotham.)