If your doctor finds that the blood pressure in one of your arms is high but not the other, this is serious and needs to be pursued.
“Doctors evaluate you based on many factors, not only physical findings,” says Donna P. Denier, MD, of The Cardiology Center with the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System.
“The first thing your doctor considers is your overall risk of any diseases such as cardiovascular disease,” she continues.
“There are risk factors known to put you at increased risk of a dangerous event like a heart attack or stroke.
“These risks include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and a family history of early heart disease.”
“A recent study has shown that consistent readings of blood pressure with differences of 10-15 points between the two arms is a marker for increased risk of heart attacks and strokes.”
This is one reason why it’s so important to periodically take your blood pressure in both arms. It’s easy to do at your kitchen table.
“A new finding of a very large difference between the two arms would trigger your doctor to do further investigation with testing,” says Dr. Denier.
“The most sinister cause of differences in the blood pressure in both arms is aortic dissection or a tear in the aorta.
“It would be very unusual for someone to have this condition without other obvious signs and symptoms.
“The doctor would be looking for these signs very carefully even if he or she does not seem to be” having an aortic dissection.
The most blatant symptom of an aortic dissection is a ripping pain in the chest, which can radiate to the back. But if you don’t have chest pain but still have big differences in blood pressure in your arms, see a cardiologist.
Dr. Denier has been practicing medicine for over 15 years and is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine – Cardiovascular Disease.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.