Blood Pressure Should Be Measured on Both Arms
There are many tests that are routinely done during a patient examination at your doctor’s office that, if modified slightly, may give you significantly more information. One such test is that of taking your blood pressure. When a patient’s blood pressure is taken, it is standard medical practice to only do so on either the left or right arm. Some medical practitioners believe that taking it on the left is more accurate as it is closer to the heart, while others determine the arm to test based on the layout of their office. What many persons do not know is that your blood pressure can be drastically different from left to right.
Why Test on Both Arms?
It is acceptable for the blood pressures to be within 10 systolic points of each other (i.e. the top number). If they differ by greater than 10 points, then it may indicate that something is wrong. Possible causes of blood pressure differences may be cardiovascular or neurological in nature. The main cardiovascular cause includes occlusion or narrowing of one of the major blood vessels that branch off the aorta to supply both the brain and upper extremities, called the subclavian artery. The resulting pathology, called subclavian steal syndrome (SSS) may result from occlusion of one of the two subclavian arteries. As a result of this occlusion, the arteries in the arm will ‘steal’ blood from the brain’s circulation in order to supply the arm. The blood pressure on the side of the occlusion will be less than that of the unaffected side. This is a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms associated with SSS are fainting sensations, actual fainting, neurological deficits, severe memory problems and arm/hand showing signs of poor circulation.
Neurological Problems May be Uncovered:
The other very important cause of blood pressure differences is of a neurological nature. There are two hemispheres (halves) of the brain, one on the right and the other on the left. Arteries are lined with smooth muscles that are under the control of each half of the brain to regulate the diameter of their lumen (opening). If brain function is normal and symmetric, then circulation will be approximately equal on both sides. If there is an imbalance in brain function, then the blood pressure on the side of brain weakness may be elevated.
There are many conditions that result from brain asymmetries including ADHD, autism, obsessive compulsive behaviour, Tourette’s syndrome, dyslexia, oppositional defiant disorders, speech delays as well as other learning disabilities or memory problems.
I encourage all medical practitioners to start taking bilateral blood pressures as they are very quick, inexpensive and can reveal a great deal about the patient’s health. Seek to identify the correlation between blood pressure and neurological deficits. Finally, I encourage all parents of children with a neurological condition, to have your physician check the child’s pressure on both sides. At Gardner Chiropractic & Neurology Ltd. we routinely check the blood pressure on both arms, for all patients. It is quick, simple and can reveal much, so why not?
The Gleaner , Tuesday | January 14, 2014