A Better Way To Test Blood Pressure

BOSTON (CBS) – Have you ever had your blood pressure checked in both arms at your doctor’s office? Researchers at Mass General Hospital say you probably should.

A small difference between the two arms is normal. But a larger one could mean you’re at risk for heart disease.

Dr. Ido Weinberg, a vascular medicine specialist, and colleagues at MGH, looked at data on nearly 3,400 local residents over the age of 40 enrolled in the Framingham heart study. “Patients who have that difference between arms could end up developing heart and blood vessel disease,” Dr. Weinberg said.

Researchers found that people with a systolic blood pressure difference of 10 points or more between their arms were 38% more likely to develop a blood vessel disorder like a heart attack, stroke, or blockages in heir legs.

The theory is that a significant difference in blood pressure between arms could indicate plaque in the arteries feeding the arm with the higher number. And having plaque in the vessels that feed your arms probably means you have plaque elsewhere, too.

“I can assume that the reason is probably that if you have blood vessel disease anywhere, you’ll probably also have it in your heart and in your brain,” Dr. Weinberg said.

Dr. Weinberg says everyone over the age of 40 should have their blood pressure measured in both their arms at least once in their lives.

“If you do have a difference, then you’d like your blood pressure to be managed according to the higher of the two,” Dr. Weinberg says. “If you do have your blood pressure measured in the office setting, and you do find that difference, that may mean you may have an increased risk and that’s something most people may want to know.”


More from Dr. Mallika Marshall
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