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Blood pressure readings should be taken from both arms, experts say

Why blood pressure readings should be taken from BOTH arms: Experts say current method misses millions with deadly condition

  • High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, increasing heart attack risk
  • Taking measurements of both arm spots an extra 12 percent of hypertension cases
  • Researchers say reading just one case ‘under diagnosis and treatment’

Blood pressure readings should be taken from both arms instead of one, scientists say.

Millions of cases of hypertension could be missed due to the way doctors currently test for it, experts fear.

High blood pressure can cause heart attacks and strokes, two of the world’s biggest killers.

A study of more than 50,000 adults analyzed the difference between taking blood pressure readings from two arms, compared to just one.

When both measurements were taken, 12 percent of patients who were originally given the all-clear were reclassified as having high blood pressure.

Blood pressure readings should be taken from both arms instead of one, scientists say

Lead researcher Dr Christopher Clark, a medical doctor at the University of Exeter in Devon, said: ‘High blood pressure is a global problem and poor management can be fatal.

‘Not measuring both arms and not using the higher reading will not only lead to underdiagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure, but also to underestimate the risks for millions of people worldwide.

‘It is impossible to predict the best arm because some people have a higher value in their left arm than in the right arm and the opposite for equal numbers.

“That’s why it’s important to check both arms.”

He added: ‘Correctly detecting high blood pressure is an essential step towards giving the right treatment to the right people.’

The study, published in the medical journal hypertensionanalyzed data from 53,172 participants.

All volunteers had blood pressure readings from their left and right arms, rather than just one.

Blood pressure describes the force with which your blood presses against the sides of your arteries and is measured in millimeters of mercury (or mmHg).

Systolic (the highest number) reflects the strength of the heart as it pumps blood around the body. Meanwhile, diastolic (the bottom) measures the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.

If either number is too high, it can put a strain on the arteries and major organs.

However, doctors care more about the systolic number.

dr. Clark and colleagues found that there was an average difference of 6.6 mmHg in systolic pressure between the arms.

When both measurements were taken into account, nearly 6,500 participants were moved to the hypertension category – defined as above 140 mmHg.

Differences between arms can be caused by clogged arteries.

Although international guidelines recommend monitoring blood pressure in both arms, this practice is currently not widely practiced in clinics.

Only about half of doctors take measurements from both arms, usually due to time constraints in crowded clinics or hospitals, experts say.


High blood pressure or hypertension rarely has noticeable symptoms. But if left untreated, it increases your risk of serious problems such as heart attacks and strokes.

More than one in four adults in the UK has high blood pressure, although many don’t realize it.

The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have your blood pressure checked.

Blood pressure is recorded with two numbers. The systolic pressure (higher number) is the force with which your heart pumps blood around your body.

The diastolic pressure (lower number) is the resistance to blood flow in the arteries. They are both measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

As a general guide:

  • high blood pressure is considered 140/90 mmHg or higher
  • ideal blood pressure is considered to be between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mmHg
  • low blood pressure is considered to be 90/60 mmHg or lower
  • A blood pressure reading between 120/80 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg can mean you are at risk of developing high blood pressure if you don’t take steps to control your blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is too high, it puts extra strain on your blood vessels, heart and other organs, such as the brain, kidneys and eyes.

Persistent high blood pressure can increase your risk for a number of serious and potentially life-threatening conditions, such as:

  • heart disease
  • heart attacks
  • to succeed
  • heart failure
  • peripheral arterial disease
  • aortic aneurysms
  • kidney disease
  • vascular dementia

Source: NHS