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What is the best way to measure your blood pressure?

June 30, 2021

When you go to the doctor's office for your regular check-up, they typically will do a blood pressure reading in one of your arms. This is a common practice in the industry, so it has to be the best way to measure a person's blood pressure reading! Right? Unfortunately, this practice should now be considered outdated. A new study shows that doctors should be testing your blood pressure in both arms because the results may vary wildly; often proving to be catastrophic and lead to severe heart problems. This may be the difference between life and death!

Measure bilateral blood pressure

This study, which was published by a distinguished Hypertension journal, pulled together data from 24 previous studies that measured bilateral blood pressure in 53,827 men and women over the age of 18. All results came from studies that only included people examined in general health clinics; eliminating people who were seen in specialty heart problem settings.

"Our interest was to identify when that difference is large enough to be regarded as signifying more than this," Christopher E. Clark, the lead author behind the article and senior lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School in England said. "When is the difference large enough to suggest a change in the arteries that might signify an additional risk of strokes or heart attacks?"

There were 4,939 deaths from all causes, including 1,435 deaths from cardiovascular disease, as well as 5,800 fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, angina attacks, and strokes. They discovered that for every 5-millimeter increase in the difference between left and right arm systolic readings, there was a 5% increase in the risk of death from any cause, a 6% increase in cardiovascular death, and a 9% increase in the risk of a first cardiovascular event after adjusting for age, sex, smoking, and diagnoses of diabetes and hypertension.

What is characterized by atherosclerosis.

The difference in blood pressure is not the core issue here. A disparity between arms, on the other hand, could be a symptom of asymmetrical early atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the arteries harden and narrow, potentially leading to heart disease or stroke. 

“This large study gives some precision to the numbers,” said Clark. “A 10-millimeter difference between arms means a 10 percent increase in risk, and that’s substantial enough to reclassify people into groups to be treated more aggressively.”

So what can you do to ensure that you are getting the right treatment from any of your health clinics? You can ask your doctor to do a second reading on your other arm. The simplest way to cut back on all potential issues is for your doctor to take your blood pressure reading in both arms instead of just one. And while your doctor might give you any number of reasons to not do this simple check, they still must make sure that you are getting the proper care for your health. Don't be shy when it comes to asking for something like this; it could be the difference between life and death for you!