Your heart is located in the midline in your chest cavity. The largest blood vessel in the body, the aorta, leaves through the left side of the heart and transports blood to a network of branching blood vessels that supply the body with oxygen and nutrients.
Blood vessels are surrounded by muscle, fat, and connective tissue. When muscles put pressure on the blood vessels around the heart, it can cause transient turbulence, which may affect blood pressure. However, this effect on blood pressure should be temporary and minor, which is why it’s important to understand your blood pressure on both sides of the body.
It is a good idea to have your blood pressure measured in both arms at least once, since the reading in one arm (usually the right) may be higher than that in the left. People found average arm- to-arm differences in systolic blood pressure of about 5 points. The higher number should be used to make treatment decisions. It is also important to measure your blood pressure in the arm that had a lower reading, just to verify that nothing has changed. Of course, if you have an arm injury or other serious reason to avoid checking your blood pressure in one of your arms, then you should check your blood pressure in the uninjured arm.
In general, blood pressures between 160/100 mm Hg and 179/109 mm Hg should be rechecked within two weeks, while measurements between 140/90 and 159/99 should be repeated within four weeks. People in the prehypertension category (between 120/80 and 139/89 mm Hg) should be rechecked within four to six months, and those with a normal reading (less than 120/80 mm Hg) should be rechecked annually. However, your doctor may schedule a follow-up visit sooner if your previous blood pressure measurements were considerably lower; if signs of damage to the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes are present; or if you have other cardiovascular risk factors. Also, most doctors routinely check your blood pressure whenever you go in for an office visit.
Systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements are used to make treatment decisions for high blood pressure. For this reason, after checking your blood pressure in both arms, record and track your blood pressure in the arm with a higher reading. The blood vessels that are subjected to the most trauma over time are the ones most likely to sustain damage that can have a negative impact on your health.
Taking the time to check your blood pressure at home can help you pick up on patterns early. It is also never too early to start proactively protecting your blood vessels through a healthy diet, minimizing high stress, and plenty of physical activity!
Because blood pressure varies throughout the day, your doctor will rarely diagnose hypertension on the basis of a single reading. Instead, he or she will want to confirm the measurements on at least two occasions, usually within a few weeks of one another. The exception to this rule is if you have a blood pressure reading of 180/110 mm Hg or higher. A result this high typically calls for prompt treatment.