Arm yourself to get better blood pressure readings

In the journals

Published: April, 2021

Blood pressure readings are usually done on only one arm, but a new analysis makes the case for checking both arms, as the difference between them may suggest an elevated risk for heart disease. The findings were published in the February 2021 issue of Hypertension.

Researchers examined 24 studies that measured blood pressure in both arms in 53,827 adults without high blood pressure. They found that a difference of more than five points between the left and right arm systolic readings (the top number) was linked with a 9% higher risk for a first-time heart attack or stroke and a 6% increase in cardiovascular death within 10 years. The greater the difference between the two readings, the higher the risk.

In older adults, higher blood pressure in one arm usually means more fatty plaque buildup in the artery supplying blood to the arm with the lower blood pressure. The researchers recommend regularly checking blood pressure in both arms. A systolic blood pressure difference between arms of 10 points or more should be considered abnormal. If you monitor your blood pressure at home and consistently find this level of difference, report it to your doctor.

Image: Dobrila Vignjevic/Getty Images

Disclaimer:
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.