Which arm is best for measuring blood pressure?

If you want to measure your blood pressure you need to know which arm to measure. Measuring blood pressure is personal, therefore it differs per person on which arm the blood pressure should be measured. There are guidelines that determine which arm should be measured. These guidelines have been drawn up by the Dutch General Practitioners Association (LHV in Dutch).

The guideline:
“Blood pressure should be measured on the arm that is least used, or on the arm recommended by your physician.”

If you are mainly left-handed, measure on the right arm. If you are right-handed, measure on the left arm. The reason for this guideline is simple. The arm that is used the least has less muscle formation which makes measuring blood pressure more accurate. A high blood pressure will be noticed more quickly as a result. The part about the arm that your doctor recommends has to do with possible scar tissue on your arm. For example, if you have had surgery on your arm, it is better not to measure on that arm. Because of possible scar tissue, measurements can be less accurate.

Once you have chosen one arm, you are not allowed to change anymore. This is because there can be a significant difference in blood pressure between the two arms. Measurements on the left arm can therefore never be compared with measurements on the right arm.

The same story applies to a wrist blood pressure monitor.

There are doctors who always measure on the left arm. That’s because most people are right-handed. Especially older people were forced in the past to use the right hand a lot. Such as writing with the right hand.

Many consultation rooms at the (family) doctor’s practice are therefore designed in such a way that measurements can only be taken on the left. If the measurement only has to be an indication, then it’s not a problem. If it has to be a very accurate measurement on which any medication may depend, it is advisable to discuss this with your doctor.

Finally, there are also (family) doctors who always measure on the left because it is closer to the heart. This has not been scientifically proven.