difference in blood pressure
difference in blood pressure

A difference in blood pressure between the two arms, a bad sign for your health

It associates a difference in blood pressure measurement between the arms with an increased risk of heart attack, stroke and death, according to the results of a new meta-analysis.

Why it matters

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide, and high blood pressure is one of the main risk factors.

To put in place preventive measures, it is important to identify people at high risk of suffering a cardiovascular event, in particular thanks to easily measurable markers, during a visit to the doctor for example. The measurement of blood pressure in both arms is easily performed and is justified by the existence of an association between a difference in blood pressure between the two arms and an increased cardiovascular risk. According to international recommendations, health professionals should also systematically perform measurements on each arm, but this is rarely the case. 

In a new study published in the journal Hypertension, researchers performed a meta-analysis to more precisely assess the impact of a difference in systolic blood pressure between the two arms on the risk of cardiovascular events and mortality. . Their goal was also to quantify the acceptable difference in blood pressure between the two arms.

The study

In this meta-analysis, the researchers analyzed data from 24 studies corresponding to 57,000 participants for which blood pressure measurements for both arms were available. They followed the patients for 10 years during which heart attacks, strokes, and deaths were recorded.

The results indicate that the greater the difference in blood pressure between the arms, the greater the additional risk to the health of the patient. People with a difference in blood pressure between the two arms of 5 mm Hg or more have an increased risk of mortality compared to those with a difference of less than 5 mm Hg. Each difference of one mm Hg between the two arms increases the risk of angina, having a heart attack or stroke within 10 years by 1% and the risk of cardiovascular mortality by 1 to 2%.

Currently, according to European directives, a difference of at least 15 mm Hg between the two arms is the threshold indicative of additional cardiovascular risk. According to this new study, a difference of 10 mmHg suffices to increase the risk; this means that more people should be taken care of and given recommendations or treatment to lower their blood pressure.

A significant difference between the systolic blood pressure readings in the two arms could be a sign of narrowing, or stiffening, of the arteries, which can affect blood flow. These arterial changes increase cardiovascular risk.

In practice

To lower blood pressure, changes in eating habits are generally effective: choose foods with a low glycemic index , avoid fried foods and sugary drinks , favour foods known to lower blood pressure such as onion thanks to its quercetin , eggplant , grape, garlic … The DASH diet ( Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension ) was developed to fight against hypertension with the same effectiveness as drugs.

Also, be sure not to lack vitamin D or magnesium. Finally, know that mindfulness can help people with hypertension lower their blood pressure.