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Ankle-arm blood pressure test

A test that measures blood pressure in the ankle and the arm can be used to assess the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems, a research group reports.

The ABI (ankle brachial index) test is easy to perform and doesn’t require expensive equipment. The ABI is the ratio between the blood pressure measurements in the ankle and the arm.

Ankle brachial index

According to WebMD, “This test (ABI) is done by measuring blood pressure at the ankle and in the arm while a person is at rest. Measurements are usually repeated at both sites after 5 minutes of walking on a treadmill.”

“The ankle-brachial index (ABI) result is used to predict the severity of peripheral arterial disease (PAD). A slight drop in your ABI with exercise means that you probably have PAD.”

The ABI study

16 studies around the world were analyzed, including 24,955 men and 23,339 women who were followed after an initial ABI measurement. Over the next 10 years, 4.4% of men with a normal ABI died, compared to 18.7% of men with an abnormally low ABI. Death rates for women were 12.6% for those with a low ABI, 4.1% for those with a normal ABI.

A lower ABI was associated with a doubled risk of death over the 10 years.

Researchers conclusion

The researchers said that ABI should be used in addition to other measures of cardiovascular risk such as cholesterol, blood pressure, obesity and physical activity.

Lead researchers Dr Foldom said, “the more information you have, the better you do in classifying cardiovascular risk.”

Researchers published their findings in the July 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.


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