For most of us, a trip to the doctor’s office typically includes a blood pressure check. The health care provider asks you to roll up your sleeve and slips the blood pressure cuff on either your right or left arm.
However a new study suggests that measuring blood pressure in just one arm may not be enough to detect signs of heart disease.
In the study, researchers examined 28 studies that looked at differences in systolic blood pressure—the upper number in a blood pressure reading—between a patient’s two arms. They found that a difference of 15 millimeters or more between the left and right arms raised the risk of peripheral vascular disease by 2.5 times, although they noted that a difference of even 10 mm could increase a patient’s risk. A 15-point difference also was associated with a 1.6 times higher risk of cerebrovascular disease and a 70% greater risk of dying from heart disease.
According to the authors, varying blood pressure readings between arms may signal the narrowing or hardening of a person’s arteries, particularly on one side of body.