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Taking blood pressure on both arms

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.

Is it normal to have a difference between the arms?

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. :)

When should I be concerned?

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

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.

Study: Blood Pressure Differences Between the Left and Right Arms

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.

Using ‘Categories’ In My Blood Pressure

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.

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8 Responses to “Taking blood pressure on both arms”

  1. Steve says:

    On Kellie’s prompting, I took readings on both my left and right side for a few weeks. Most times the readings were 5 mmHg or so different, but on average, they worked out to be much the same.

  2. John S says:

    I remember reading an article from a salt-phobe a few years ago that severely restricting salt intake resulted in a BP reduction of about 1.5mmHg which is a joke. One it’s not worth the effort and two there is a sub-population out there that will get high blood pressure from slat restriction. Except for people with advanced kidney disease it is very silly to even worry about salt.

  3. John S says:

    Steve……….you should be interested in the link below which includes an interview and a lecture on fructose. I knew that fructose was bad but I had no idea it is that bad for health. I was also surprised that it increases uric acid levels and that uric acid also contributes to high blood pressure.

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/20/sugar-dangers.aspx

    • Steve says:

      Hi John,

      Kellie has written a few articles in the past about fructose studies, and the evidence does appear to be stacking up against it.

      Lots of information in that article that you linked to. I have just been watching the “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM which was linked to in that article.

      I will do a bit more research, and maybe do a new post about fructose, linking to that article and the video.

      Thanks!

  4. Lillian Shipp says:

    I was hospitalize on 12/07/2011. I went to a private hospital visiting my son with cardiovascular disease and decided to my blood pressure check. I woke up 3 weeks later with a confused mind and doctors telling me I had a stroke or a heart attack. What I found out is that the cardiologist that attening me left me to die without treating me. The doctor finally did check me an found I has blocked artery of 99percent. He did correct the problem but I still have high blood pressure of 230/200 and diabetes. My right side still tingles and swells up so bad that I have sheik hand. It would be normal but I am vegan and have been for 10 years could you please tell what could be me problem since I am on a boat load of medicine and still feel in a confused since no one can tell me what is wrong and feelin abandoned

    • Steve says:

      Hi Lillian,

      I am not a doctor so I can’t offer you any advice on this.

      I do hope that you can find the answers that you are looking for and that your health improves.

      My best wishes,
      Steve

    • Sharon says:

      Hi Lillian
      I just read your post – did you get assistance? obviously not much support here!

  5. Steve says:

    Hi Sharon,

    We are a software company, and can’t offer medical advice.

    However, our software can be useful in collecting and presenting information for someone’s Doctor to assess.

    So we can support that!
    Steve
    My Health Software support

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About Kellie

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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