I was recently asked whether you should take your blood pressure on your left or right arm. Good question! The answer is both!
A big difference between the left and right arm blood pressures can indicate a blockage in the heart or arteries. It is important to take readings of both arms to rule out any problems.
My Blood Pressure can help you record and chart your right and left arms to spot any abnormalities over time.
Yes! It is normal to have a difference between the blood pressure readings of your arms. Generally, blood pressure is higher in your dominant arm. So, if you are right-handed, like I am, your right arm may have a slightly higher reading than your left arm. However, the difference is usually less than 5mmHg systolic.
When a doctor takes your blood pressure, it is typically taken on the right arm. But if you measure your blood pressure at home, readings are often taken in the left arm, as it is easier to do. This can cause different readings at home and in the doctor’s office – as well as the white coat effect.
If there is a difference of more than 10mmHg between your right and left arm, it may be a sign of a blockage in the heart or arteries. You should see your doctor for further investigation. Narrowing of the arteries or occlusive peripheral arterial disease can cause a large difference in the readings between the right and left arms.
Occlusive peripheral arterial disease is more common in older people as it results from a build up of plaque inside the arteries or ‘hardening of the arteries’(atherosclerosis). Occlusive peripheral arterial disease may affect up to 20% of people older than 70.
A simple way of diagnosing occlusive peripheral arterial disease is by comparing the blood pressure readings taken on the right arm to the reading taken on the left arm or between the arms and the legs.
A large difference in systolic reading between the arms suggests a blockage or narrowing of one of the vessels in the arm with lower blood pressure. Occlusive arterial disease is treatable. Often drugs, angioplasty, or surgery is used to relieve the blockage.
A clinical study published in February 2007 studied the blood pressure of both arms of 147 people. The researchers found little difference between the arms, except on 2 people who were diagnosed with obstructive arterial disease.
The researchers concluded that a difference between the left and right arm blood pressure was only found when the patients had obstructive arterial disease. They found that blood pressure tended to be higher in the right arm, and small differences between the two arms were normal.
Over to Steve …
To record the blood pressure of your left and right arms and compare the average readings, you can use the ‘Categories’ system in My Blood Pressure.
To do this, the first step is to tell My Blood Pressure that you want to add categories for the left and right side readings. To do this click on the Study readings task, and then click on the Categories tab.
You are now looking at a list of all your categories. Unless you have added some categories in the past, the list is probably empty. Click on the “View common categories” link to see a list of preset categories. In the list of preset categories you should see a link that says “Body Side”. Click on the “Body Side” link, and then click on the “Yes” button to confirm your choice. This is illustrated in the screenshot below:
Once you have done that, whenever you go to add a reading, you will see the “Left arm” and “Right arm” categories at the bottom of the window. Click on either of the categories to indicate which arm the reading was taken on. This is illustrated in the screenshot below:
*Note:* information provided on this website is for general medical informational purposes only, actual diagnosis and treatment can only be made by your physician(s). For more information visit the American Heart Association website.
Kellie is 37 years old and together with her brother Steve makes up the My Health Software team.
She helps on the websites and gathering news for the programs. Kellie worked in the medical industry prior to having her two children (8 and 6) and has a strong interest in self awareness and management of health conditions.
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