Friday, May 11, 2012

Does It Matter Which Arm Is Used For Measuring Blood Pressure?

When a person visits a doctor to find out if he or she has hypertension (high blood pressure), the doctor would probably measure the blood pressure in both arms. If blood pressure is higher on one arm, the doctor will very likely use the blood pressure reading from that arm to monitor the blood pressure on subsequent visits.

But according to a study by researchers from the University of Exeter, doctors should measure blood pressure on both arms every time for their hypertensive patients because this could help identify the likelihood of heart disease or even death. The findings were published on January 30, 2012 in the British medical journal ‘The Lancet’.

After reviewing 28 studies with data on the differences in systolic blood pressure between arms, they concluded that a difference of 15 mm of mercury or more was associated with an higher risk of the narrowing and hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the legs and feet.

It was also linked to pre-existing cerebrovascular disease, which is a group of brain dysfunctions related to disease of the blood vessels supplying the brain. Cerebrovascular disease can lead to a number of disorders including stroke or dementia.

Most of the cases can hardly be detected but double-arm checks should help reveal those patients who are at risk. Both-arm blood pressure checks should therefore be adopted as the standard practice. Especially patients who are monitoring their blood pressure at home should pay attention to the difference and should immediately inform or seek help from their doctors if the difference exceeds 15 mmHg.

As defined by the World Health Organization (WHO), a person is said to have high blood pressure when the readings are 140/90 mmHg or more. The first number is systolic reading that measures maximum heart pressure, while the second number is diastolic reading that measures pressure when the heart is in a resting phase. High blood pressure can be the cause of many other diseases including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and dementia.

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