Although it s long been recommended that doctors measure a patient s blood pressure in both arms, this guideline is often ignored. However, the results of a new study emphasize the importance of taking both readings: Researchers from the University of Exeter, U.K., have found that a difference of 15 mm Hg or more in the blood pressure measurements of the right and left arms is associated with a 2.5-times increased risk of a condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD). Characterized as a narrowing of the arteries that supply the arms or, more commonly, the legs, PAD is a major risk factor for vascular disease overall.
In this meta-analysis of 28 studies, published in The Lancet, researchers also discovered that a 15 mm Hg blood pressure difference is associated with a 70 percent increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease and a 60 percent increased risk for all-cause mortality.
The majority of PAD cases go undiagnosed until significant impairment of circulation occurs, which can in turn lead to amputation, especially in diabetics. Therefore, early detection is important. Because PAD is a strong risk factor for cardiovascular disease, notes ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross, health care professionals should be encouraged and reminded to take two blood pressure readings it s a simple part of a physical exam that requires only an extra minute, yet it can yield very important health information.