-- Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- Calculating the difference
in blood pressure readings taken from the left and right arms might
help predict a patient's odds of dying from heart disease, a new
Researchers found that people with high blood pressure whose
blood pressure varies significantly between each arm are at higher
risk of cardiovascular death over 10 years.
The study supports "inter-arm difference as a simple indicator
of increased cardiovascular risk," say a team led by Dr. Andrew
Gould, of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in
The new findings echo those of a study published in January in
The Lancet. That study, also conducted by researchers at Peninsula College, reviewed data from 28 studies looking at differences between systolic blood pressure [the top number in a reading] between the right and left arms.
The team found that a difference of 15 millimeters of mercury
(mm Hg) or more between readings was linked with an increased risk
of narrowing or hardening of the arteries supplying the lower
limbs, called peripheral vascular disease.
In the new study, Gould and colleagues looked at 230 patients
with high blood pressure. They found that, after adjusting for age
and gender, there was a 9 percent increased risk of death over the
next 10 years for every one mm/Hg difference in blood pressure
reading between the arms.
The findings suggest that blood pressure should be routinely
measured in both arms for patients undergoing treatment for
hypertension, the researchers report March 20 in the online edition
One expert in the United States agreed with the findings.
"As the recent article points out, blood pressure readings in the right and left arm may differ by a few points," said Dr. Kevin Marzo, chief of cardiology at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola, N.Y. "However, a difference of more than 10 points [mm/Hg] could suggest trouble and alert the physician to intensify treatment strategies for preventing a heart attack or stroke. The 'vital' signs should include blood pressure in both arms -- a screening test that adds no cost, little time and potentially so critical to initiating lifesaving treatment.'
For patients found to have different blood pressure readings in
their arms, subsequent monitoring should be performed in the arm
with the higher reading because doing so would help determine
necessary treatment, Dr. Dae Hyun Kim of Harvard Medical School
added in an accompanying journal editorial.
Further research is needed to establish the link between
different blood pressure readings in the arm and death risk, Kim
The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about
high blood pressure.
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