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High Blood Pressure

Unequal blood pressure on left and right side

03/20/2006

Question:

what is the usual cause of unequal blood pressure on left and right side?

Answer:

Everybody has slightly different blood pressures when measured on the right vs. left arm.  Up to 39% of all otherwise healthy people have blood pressure differences greater than 10 mmHg.  This is due to different length of the arteries (distance from the heart), and differences in diameter and elasticity of the vessels.

If the blood pressure difference is large, one has to look for obstruction in one of the arteries.  Such obstructions are rare.  They can be due to atherosclerosis or due to congenital defects.

In general, one should always measure the blood pressure in the arm giving the higher reading.

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Response by:

Max C Reif, MD Max C Reif, MD
Professor of Medicine
Director of Hypertension Section
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati