Does your doctor only check your blood pressure in one arm? Do you do the same – you know, at one of the blood pressure checking stations in the Wal-Mart? Well, then there’s a good chance that you could be missing out on signs that could indicate a serious health risk.

In fact, a recent study published in The Lancer, has found that having different blood pressure readings in both the right and the left arms could be indicative of vascular disease and an increased risk of dying from heart disease.

About the Study

The study results were based on research by Dr. Christopher Clark who is a clinical academic fellow at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry in England.  Dr. Clark, the lead author of the study, and his colleagues combined their research with that from approximately two dozen other studies that looked at the difference in systolic pressure readings between both the right and the left arms of patients.

Systolic pressure is the “top” number in a blood pressure reading that shows how much pressure the blood is exerting on vessels while the heart contracts. They found that a difference of as little as 15 millimeters or more between the two arms equaled a risk of peripheral vascular disease that was 2.5 times higher and 1.6 times greater risk of cerebrovascualr disease.

They also found that the number—higher or lower—in a blood pressure reading was not as important as the extent of the difference between the two of them. The end result being, however, that different readings in each arm were a sign of narrowing or hardening of arteries, specifically on one side of the body.

Scary Findings

While any information that could lead to a better diagnosis is most certainly a positive thing, this study also found that not nearly enough doctors are following the proper guidelines and continue to only take a blood pressure reading in one arm . . . even though guidelines exist advising them to do otherwise.

It was found that only half of the doctors in Britain are following guidelines and measuring blood pressure in both arms. The U.S. is expected to have similar statistics.

This is a very scary realization, considering the evidence. The consequence of taking the “short cut” is that patients are led to believe that their blood pressure is normal, or that their high or low blood pressure is being treated accordingly when in fact it is not. Not following these important guidelines can lead to misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment for patients, which as you can see, could prove catastrophic.

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