Both arm blood pressure checks may become the norm

It has long been part of a routine trip to the doctor’s office that your blood pressure gets checked to inspect the flow of blood and state of your heart. But the latest advice is that instead of just checking one arm’s pressure, readings should be taken from both arms and compared.

A significant difference between the two readings would indicate an increase in the risk of vascular disease, and ultimately death. A study by Dr Clark and colleagues from the Peninsula College at Essex University created a metastudy looking at 28 studies where the majority of patients had high blood pressure, and a third had normal levels.

Their research found that if there is a difference in the systolic blood pressure between the arms of10 mercurial millimetres, then the risk of asymptomatic peripheral vascular disease increased. If the difference between the arms is as much as 15 millimetres of mercury then there is an increase in the risk of cerebrovascular disease, and a 70% higher rate in cardiovascular mortality, and the risk of death from all causes goes up by 60%.

This evidence all shows that doctors need to check the pressure in both arms, and compare the difference to see the whole story.