Why Is Blood Pressure Higher in One Arm Than Another?

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It is not unusual for blood pressure to read differently in one arm than another, and according to the Mayo Clinic, a minor difference is considered normal. There are several reasons why blood pressure readings may differ, and most are benign.

Blood pressure may read differently in one arm over another.
Blood pressure may read differently in one arm over another.

Minor Versus Major Differences

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A difference of 5 to 10 mm Hg is considered minor and not cause for concern. A difference more than 10 mm Hg may indicate an underlying problem.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury.

Arm Dominance and Blood Pressure

Readings can be slightly higher in the dominant arm. Usually the muscles in that arm are more developed and may produce more resistance against, as well as pressure in, the vessels on that side.

Readings tend to be higher in your dominant arm.
Readings tend to be higher in your dominant arm.

Blood Pressure and Coronary Artery Disease

The American Heart Association indicates that a difference in blood pressure more than 10 mm Hg between arms is significantly greater in patients with known coronary artery disease. If you do not have known heart disease, significantly different readings may be the first sign.

Those with heart disease may have larger differences between arms.
Those with heart disease may have larger differences between arms.

Blood Pressure and Atherosclerosis

A difference of 10 mm Hg or more in blood pressure readings may also indicate a narrowing of the major arteries in the affected arm, per the Mayo Clinic. Consult your doctor if any significant differences in blood pressure are identified.

Consult your doctor if you notice any significant changes in blood pressure.
Consult your doctor if you notice any significant changes in blood pressure.

Accurate Blood Pressure Measurements

If blood pressure is higher in one arm, the doctor will take readings from the arm with the higher pressure to ensure an accurate measurement.

You doctor will take your blood pressure reading from the higher arm to get a more accurate reading.
You doctor will take your blood pressure reading from the higher arm to get a more accurate reading.

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