Measuring blood pressure in both arms reduces hypertension

Measuring blood pressure in both arms reduces hypertension
© iStock/Charday Penn

A new study finds that measuring blood pressure in both arms can reduce cardiovascular risk and hypertension.

Research by the University of Exeter analysed data from 53,172 participants in 23 studies worldwide to examine the implications of choosing the higher or lower arm pressure. They found that using the higher arm blood pressure reading reclassified 12% of people as having hypertension, who would have fallen below the threshold for diagnosis if the lower arm reading was used.

Study lead Dr Christopher Clark, from the University of Exeter, said: “High blood pressure is a global issue, and poor management can be fatal. This study shows that failure to measure both arms and use the higher reading arm will not only result in underdiagnosis and undertreatment of high blood pressure, but also under-estimation of cardiovascular risks for millions of people worldwide.”

The study was published in Hypertension.

Measuring blood pressure to improve hypertension diagnosis

The team discovered that using the higher arm measurement compared to measuring blood pressure in the lower arm resulted in the reclassification of 6572 (12.4%) of participants’ systolic blood pressures from below to above 130 mm Hg, and 6339 (11.9%) from below to above 140 mm Hg, moving them above commonly used diagnostic thresholds for hypertension.

Dr Clark continued: “It’s impossible to predict the best arm for blood pressure measurement as some people have a higher reading in their left arm compared to the right and equal numbers have the opposite. Therefore, it’s important to check both arms as detecting high blood pressure correctly is a vital step towards giving the right treatment to the right people.

“Our study now provides the first evidence that the higher reading arm blood pressure is the better predictor of future cardiovascular risk.”

The importance of high and low measurement techniques

The study uncovered that measuring blood pressure higher on the arm provides better predicted all-cause mortality, cardiovascular mortality, and cardiovascular events compared to measuring blood pressure from the lower arm. The authors noted the importance of measuring blood pressure in the high and low arms during the diagnosis and management of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.


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