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What If Your Blood Pressure Reading Differs Between Your Two Arms?

When the nurse takes your blood pressure at the doctor's office, does she take the reading in both arms? Personally, I don't remember one time that the nurse took a reading in both arms.

That could change though; or at least it should change soon. In a recent study that was published January 30, 2012 in The Lancet, recommendations were made that doctors make it a habit to take blood pressure readings in both arms at least on the patient's first visit.

what if your blood pressure reading differs between your two arms?What that does is tell the doctor if there is more of a chance of there being a blocked artery. A difference of up to 10 mm Hg is normal; however if the difference is between 10 – 15 mm Hg or higher between the arms, there is a possibility of blockage, which could be leading to PAD (Peripheral Artery Disease) or CAD (Coronary Artery Disease.)
At the end of blog, I'll tell you where you can get tested to see if your arteries are clogged.
According to a 1991 study at John Hopkins University, PAD occurred more frequently when there was a difference in numbers than CAD.

Something to note however, is that the difference in numbers could happen even if you don't have high blood pressure!

So if you monitor your own blood pressure at home as many doctors recommend, if you think your blood pressure monitor is off because you're getting different readings in your arms, keep in mind that it might not be the monitor's fault. If you continue to have that contrast, you might want to let your doctor know what's going on.

Other things to look for that could clue you in to signs of PAD are:
·        Decreased hair growth on the legs and feet (obviously doesn't count if you've been having laser treatments to get rid of hair!)
·        Discoloration of the leg or foot when dangling (from pale to bluish-red)
·        Leg and foot of one leg is cooler than the other leg
·        Numbness, tingling, cramping or pain in leg or foot
·        A wound that does not heal on the leg or foot
·        Calf muscles getting smaller
·        Thickened toenails
·        Gangrene
When I saw that one of the symptoms of PAD is pain in the leg, it made me wonder how to tell the difference between normal leg aches & pains from exercising and the pain from PAD.
Does your blood pressure reading differ between your two armsWhat I found was that usually when you have normal night cramps and regular muscle aches, it doesn't mean you have PAD. When you need to be more concerned with the pain is in situations where you've been walking and you get calf, thigh and/or butt muscle pain that gets better after taking a break for a couple minutes.
Normally when you exercise, walk, etc., your arteries can expand to let the blood flow through your arteries, but when you have PAD, the plaque blockage in your legs isn't letting enough blood flow to get through.

With PAD, when you take a break from walking, apparently enough blood flow can then get through when you rest, so the pain eases. Also, if you go for walks every day,  you'll probably notice the pain being in exactly the same place each day and the location won't change, since that is where the blockage is.

When pain starts occurring in the feet constantly, the PAD is getting worse. Even lying in bed doesn't help, but dangling your feet will help the pain. That's because the blockage is getting worse yet, and dangling is how the blood flow is getting to the feet.

So if you can handle the pain, here's another reason to pay attention to consistently different arm blood pressure readings more than 10 – 15 mmHg:

In yet another study at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, researchers found in a study about survival rates over 10 years, that for every 1 mm Hg in difference between arms, the risk of death increased by 9%.

Moral of the story here is if your doctor isn't checking your blood pressure in both arms, you might want to firmly suggest to him/her that he do so.

 It does seem to be a relatively new guideline, but it is coming from the American Heart Association, the World Health Organization, and the International Society of Hypertension and European Society of Hypertension.

An easy way to check for artery blockages as well as other health screenings is to check http://www.lifelinescreening.com/ They move around to various locations (churches & other places where they can set up) for a day at a time and have reasonable rates to check for PAD as well as osteoporosis, carotid artery blockage, etc. (Side note on this: I am not an affiliate of this company - it's just a really good place to get checked out, especially if you don't have a doctor yet; it's good to know if you have blockages, etc.)
Check the website for more info.  Especially once you get signed up, you will more than likely receive discount coupons and/or they'll remind you of a screening in your area each year or so. That is one kind of reminder that is well worth while! 

I'm not sure if it is in countries other than the United States, but you might do a search for something similar.

P.S. Feel free to share this post and tag someone on Facebook if you know someone who could possibly use this information.

Images: Courtesy of www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net 


Anthony J. Avino, M.D., F.A.C.S.  Savannah Vascular & Cardiac Institute. 'Leg Pain: When is Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) The Cause?' https://www.savannahvascular.com/leg-pain---when-is-peripheral-arterial-disease-pad-the-cause/. Accessed May 9, 2013

Steven Reinberg. Health Day. "Blood Pressure Difference Between Arms Could Signal Health Risk.  https://health.usnews.com/health-news/diet-fitness/diabetes/articles/2012/01/30/blood-pressure-differences-between-arms-could-signal-heart-risk   

Authors: Paul Muntner, Daichi Shimbo, Robert M. Carey, Jeanne B. Charleston, Trudy Gaillard, Sanjay Misra, Martin G. Myers, Gbenga Ogedegbe, Joseph E. Schwartz, Raymond R. Townsend, Elaine M. Urbina, Anthony J. Viera, William B. White, Jackson T. Wright Jr.,   Hypertension, Vol 73, No. 5.  Measurement of Blood Pressure in Humans: A Scientific Statement from the American Heart Association. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/HYP.0000000000000087 .  (Find this info under "Interarm Differences). Published 4 March 2019.