The Blood Pressure of Your Right Arm

The heart is on the left side of the body, we write with one hand, we carry a purse with one hand, we don't have completely symmetrical lungs, there are lots of behavioral and anatomic reasons that one arm is different from the other arm. We measure blood pressure in one arm when we go to the doc, but it's not so completely surprising that women may have slight differences in blood pressure between one arm and the other. In fact our arm pressure may be different from the blood pressure in or legs as well. Blood pressure differences at the different sites is important. SSo not specifically what the reading is, although that is important, but today we are also focusing on what the blood pressure in the right arm relative to your left arm. It can signal a clog in the main blood vessel that feeds one side or the other. By definition a difference of 20 "points" (or 20 mm Hg) is unusual and can signal vascular disease. So Dr Christopher Clark asked a different question, as reported in Lancet this year. What do small differences in the blood pressure between the right arm and the left arm mean for your overall health? Especially if you have a 15 point difference in one arm from the other, but even a 10 point difference may mean you have vascular disease in your arms or legs. In early stages women will not have signs of arterial disease, but in later stages you may have pain with exercise that is better with rest, you may have odd pains. It is a reason to exercise well, keep your cholesterol down, use aspirin if your gyno has suggested it and get evaluated if you are having pain that is unexplained.So the next time you sit down and they ask you which arm to get your blood pressure  reading, just say, BOTH!


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