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Advice from the BP Measurement Experts

Has My Physician Measured My BP in Both Arms?

Doctor taking a BP measurementThat’s the question I pondered while reading an article published earlier this year in the American Journal of Hypertension. In the article “Blood Pressure Measurement Method and Inter-Arm Difference: A Meta-Analysis,"* the authors reviewed studies where BP was measured in both the left and right arm of subjects. The results showed that on average, Systolic pressures differ by 5.4 mmHg between arms while Diastolic pressures showed an average inter-arm difference of 3.6 mmHg.

As hypertension guidelines have been published and revised over the last several years to help steer diagnosis and treatment decisions, these measured differences can be significant. Furthermore, the authors’ meta-analysis showed that over 14% of subjects have a difference of greater than 10 mmHg. That’s worth paying attention to, especially when undiagnosed hypertension can lead to stroke, heart disease and a number of other medical conditions. 

So that got me thinking, when was the last time my physician took my BP from both left and right arms? Ideally, it would have been on my first visit to the office just to document whether I have an inter-arm difference.  According to the most recent AHA guidelines for measuring blood pressure, it’s pretty clear “that blood pressure should be checked in both arms at the first examination.”

I honestly can’t say that I ever remember it being done on my first or any subsequent visit to my doctor’s office. Do you?

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