A difference in blood pressure between one arm and the other that varies by more than 10 indicates a higher risk of a heart attack or stroke, according to the American Journal of Medicine. A recent study in the journal said that potential risk may show in systolic blood pressure. Also known as “the top number,” systolic blood pressure measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (contracts).
A difference in blood pressure between one arm and the other can signify a buildup of arterial plaque (atherosclerosis). Plaque buildup causes blockages, which decrease blood flow and change blood pressure. A blood pressure difference between arms would not only help identify blockage in an upper extremity, but would also indicate the need to screen other areas of the body for blockages.
Results of atherosclerosis (or peripheral artery disease, which is a result of atherosclerosis) can range from leg pain while walking to amputation due to leg-artery blockages. With diagnosis, a clinician can use a variety of measures to decrease the risk of future cardiovascular events.
Besides checking blood pressure in both arms and careful physical examination, a number of basic tests can also help guide a clinician to diagnosis and a treatment plan. Anyone 65 and up should undergo screening for peripheral artery disease (50 and up with risk factors).
Find out about North Shore-LIJ’s Cardiovascular Services by calling 855-HEART-11 (855-432-7811).
This post was written by Puneet Gandotra, MD, cardiologist at Southside Hospital.
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