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Expatriate health insurance policyholders may wish to have both arms checked for systolic blood pressure rather than just one.
This is because differences between the two limbs could indicate a person's likelihood of dying due to vascular conditions, a meta-analysis and systematic review undertaken by scientists at the University of Exeter Peninsular College of Medicine and Dentistry (PCMD) revealed.
The study, which was published in the Lancet, adds weight to the argument of to those calling for blood pressure checks to be performed on both arms as standard.
Investigators analysed 28 papers that dealt with variation in the systolic blood pressure of separate limbs and found there was enough evidence to suggest a link between a difference of at least 15 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and a range of conditions.
These include pre-existing cerebrovascular disease, which is related to dementia.
Furthermore, raised levels of peripheral vascular disease and mortality were found when the variation was at least 10mm Hg.
Many cases of these ailments are "clinically silent", researchers claimed, arguing analysing both arms would enable healthcare providers to identify people at a higher risk of suffering from them.
Dr Christopher Clark, a general practitioner in Witheridge, Devon and a clinical academic fellow at the PCMD, led the investigation.
He explained the investigators wanted to discover whether there was any link between the differences between blood pressure readings on each arm, vascular disease and death.
"Our findings indicate a strong association, and that differences of 10mm Hg or 15mm Hg or more might help to identify patients who are at risk and who need further vascular assessment," the specialist remarked.
Dr Clark added: "More research is required in order to transfer our findings to clinical practice."
Systolic readings relate to the pressure within the arteries during a contraction of the heart, whereas diastolic measurements refer to when the heart is resting between beats.
The study was supported by organisations including the Royal College of General Practitioners, the National Institute for Health Research Peninsula Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care and the South West GP Trust.
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