A difference in blood pressure between the right and left arm could indicate an increased risk of dying from heart disease, say doctors.
They discovered that a difference in systolic blood pressure of 15mm of mercury or more between the arms is linked to hardening of the arteries supplying blood to the legs and feet.
Their findings come after they reviewed 28 papers looking at variations in systolic blood pressure between the arms.
A high blood pressure reading is one that exceeds 140/90mm of mercury. The first figure is called the systolic pressure.
The study, published online in The Lancet medical journal, found that a difference of 15mm of mercury or more was linked with a 2.5-fold extra risk of peripheral vascular disease.
PVD is the narrowing and hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the legs and feet.
The risk of cerebrovascular disease, which affects the blood supply to the brain and may lead to strokes, was increased 1.5 times. Study leader Dr Christopher Clark, of the Peninsula College of
Medicine and Dentistry at Exeter University, said it was likely one arm was giving a lower figure because of a reduction in blood flow, which could signal arterial disease.
He said it was also important routinely to check whether there was a significant difference between arms because the arm giving the highest figure was the ‘true’ reading.
Dr Clark called for GPs to take blood pressure in both arms and for people testing their blood pressure at home to do the same.
‘PVD is often diagnosed based on symptoms such as difficulty walking,’ he said.
‘By finding a difference in blood pressure between arms it is possible we could investigate potential problems at an earlier stage, even in patients who do not have high blood pressure.
‘This means we can do further tests to measure the blood pressure in the legs and where there is PVD give advice on stopping smoking and lifestyle, and if necessary blood thinning drugs or statins.’
By Daily Mail Reporter
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