When I measure my blood pressure at home, I've noticed that the reading is always higher in one arm. Should I be concerned?
Answer From Sheldon G. Sheps, M.D.
Generally, a small difference in blood pressure readings between arms isn't a health concern. However, a difference of more than 10 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) for either your top number (systolic pressure) or bottom number (diastolic) may be a sign of blocked arteries in the arms, diabetes or other health problem.
People who repeatedly have a difference of 10 to 15 mm Hg for systolic pressure are more likely to have vascular disease. They also have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease and related complications during the next 13 years.
A large difference in blood pressure measurement between your arms may be a sign of a health problem, such as:
- Blocked arteries in your arms (peripheral artery disease)
- Cognitive decline
- Kidney disease
- Heart defect
If you have a large difference in blood pressure readings between arms, talk to your doctor. If your blood pressure is higher in one arm, your doctor will probably use that arm to measure your blood pressure in the future.
Jan. 09, 2019
- Clark CE, et al. Associations between interarm differences in blood pressure and cardiovascular disease outcomes: Protocol for an individual patient data meta-analysis and development of a prognostic algorithm. BMJ Open. 2017;7:e016844.
- Clark CE, et al. Prevalence of systolic inter-arm differences in blood pressure for different primary care populations: Systematic review and meta-analysis. The British Journal of General Practice. 2016;66:e838.
- Thomas D, et al. Inter-arm blood pressure difference and risks of cognitive decline. A 9-year prospective cohort study of older adults. Journal of Hypertension. 2016;34(e-Supplement 2):e224.
- Pase MP, et al. Interarm differences in systolic blood pressure and the risk of dementia and subclinical brain injury. Alzheimer's & Dementia. 2016;12:438.
- Sheps SG (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 27, 2018.