Thursday, 24 April 2014

Low iron levels 'double stroke risk'

More than 15 million people worldwide suffer a stroke every year, resulting in almost 6 million deaths. Now, new finds that iron deficiency could increase a person's risk of stroke by making the blood sticky.

The research team notes that previous research has shown that iron deficiency could be a risk factor for ischemic stroke - when small blood clots interrupt blood flow to the brain - in adults and children.

To investigate why this is the case, the researchers analyzed the iron levels of 497 patients with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) - a rare disease than can lead to enlarged blood vessels in the lungs. The research team explains that healthy blood vessels usually filter out small blood clots before the blood travels to the arteries. But in HHT, the blood vessels can allow small blood clots to make their way to the brain.

The investigators found that patients with moderately low iron levels (6 micromoles per liter) had double the risk of stroke, compared with patients with iron levels deemed middle of the normal range (7-27 micromoles per liter). Further investigation revealed that iron deficiency increases the stickiness of platelets - small blood cells. This prompts platelets to stick together, causing clotting.

Since platelets in the blood stick together more if you are short of iron, we think this may explain why being short of iron can lead to strokes, though much more research will be needed to prove this link.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Chronic pain may be genetic

Some people seem to have a higher tolerance for pain than others. According to American Academy of Neurology's the answer is genetic. Their research forms part of an investigation into the causes of chronic pain.

Unlike normal or "acute" pain - the sensation triggered by the nervous system to alert the body to possible injury - chronic pain is persistent, with pain signals continuing to fire in the nervous system for weeks, months or years. Chronic pain can come from an ongoing ailment, such as arthritis, cancer or an infection; from a one-off injury such as a sprained back; or it can even occur in people who have suffered no specific injury or illness.

People who suffer from chronic pain may get combinations of headaches, low back pain or nerve pain, among other symptoms. People with chronic pain also might have chronic fatigue syndrome, endometriosis, fibromyalgia, inflammatory bowel disease, interstitial cystitis, tempromandibular joint dysfunction.

Doctors may take a variety of approaches in treating chronic pain. Drugs, acupuncture, local electrical stimulation, brain stimulation and even surgery may be used, depending on the case. Some doctors also report success in treating patients with placebos. Less invasive treatments include psychotherapy, relaxation therapy, biofeedback and behavior modification.

Previous research into chronic pain has found that patients with this condition often have low levels of endorphins in their spinal fluid, so some treatments are aimed at stimulating endorphin levels.

As part of the new study, researchers asked 2,721 patients with chronic pain to rate the intensity of their pain from 0 to 10. All of the patients were taking prescribed opioid pain medications.

The researchers divided the participants into three groups. Those who scored their pain 1-3 were classed as having "low pain perception," people who scored 4-6 had "moderate pain perception," while "high pain perception" was defined by scoring 7-10.

The majority of the people in the study (46%) had moderate pain perception, closely followed by high pain perception (45%). Only 9% of the participants had low pain perception, and anyone giving their pain a rating of 0 was disqualified from the study.

The research team found that a gene variant, DRD1, was 33% more common in the low pain group than in the high pain group. The people in the moderate pain group were more likely to have another two variants - COMT, which was 25% more common in this group than in the high pain group, and OPRK, which was 19% more common. The high pain group, meanwhile, were 25% more likely to have the variant DRD2 than the people in the moderate group.

This study is quite significant because it provides an objective way to understand pain and why different individuals have different pain tolerance levels. Identifying whether a person has any of these four genes could help doctors better understand their patients' pain perception.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Low blood sugar may cause couples to fight more!

A quick candy bar may delay more than hunger. It could prevent major fights between husbands and wives. That's because low blood sugar can make spouses touchy, researchers propose. We need glucose for self-control; anger is the emotion that most people have difficulty controlling.

The researchers studied 107 married couples for three weeks. Each night, they measured their levels of the blood sugar glucose and asked each participant to stick pins in a voodoo doll representing his or her spouse. That indicated levels of aggressive feelings. The researchers found that the lower the blood sugar levels, the more pins were pushed into the doll. In fact, people with the lowest scores pushed in twice as many pins as those with the highest blood sugar levels, the researchers said.

The study also found that the spouses were generally not angry at each other. About 70 percent of the time, people didn't put any pins in the doll. The average for the whole study was a bit more than one pin a night per person. Three people put all 51 pins in at one time and one person did that twice.

Researchers said there's a good physical reason to link eating to emotion: The brain, which is only 2 percent of the body weight, consumes 20 percent of our calories. Eating a candy bar might be a good idea if spouses are about to discuss something touchy but that fruits and vegetables are a better long-term strategy for keeping blood sugar levels up.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Blood pressure guidelines raised for people above 60

New guidelines that relax blood pressure levels for people over 60 came. The new guidelines give a little more leeway and a little less stress about this particular indicator. Until recently, the control goal for people 60 and older was 140/90. Now, it's 150/90.

According to Duke University researchers, that could mean that 5.8 million people considered uncontrolled under the old guidelines wouldn't need blood pressure medication under the new guidelines. While the new guidelines should result in fewer medication side effects, some say it could increase the risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

While everyone agrees that hypertension can lead to strokes, heart disease and kidney disease, just how low blood pressure levels should be to reduce the risk is controversial.

One in four adults in the over-60 group is on hypertension drugs to meet the old guidelines. According to the study, 13.5 million adults — most over 60 — would no longer be classified as having poorly controlled blood pressure, including 5.8 million who would no longer need blood pressure pills under the new guidelines. These adults would be eligible for less intensive blood pressure medication under the new guidelines, particularly if they were experiencing side effects. But many experts fear that increasing blood pressure levels in these adults could be harmful.

For quite a while, the goal, especially for older patients, has been much too low. They get calcified arteries, so it's harder to get blood pressure control overall. Adding more and more medications, and driving their systolic pressure down makes the diastolic (bottom) number way too low for them. It can cause a lot weakness and dizziness. That can affect quality of life, she said, and cause falls, which can mean dangerous hip fractures among other injuries.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Is coconut oil a healthy choice or not?

In health circles, the benefits of coconut oil remain a subject of debate, with some doctors saying more studies are needed to prove claims that it boosts energy, lowers cholesterol and helps you lose weight. But that hasn’t slowed the demand for the tropical oil made from the dried fruit (nut) of the coconut palm tree.

Until recently, coconut oil was considered a highly saturated and, therefore, an unhealthy fat. But customers are snatching it up for use on their skin, in their hair, for cooking, making smoothies, improving athletic performance and for a variety of other reported health benefits.

Nothing has really changed about coconut oil’s fat composition. It still contains about 90 percent saturated fat — a much higher proportion than butter or even lard. However, unlike fats from animal sources, coconut oil is unusual because of its high percentage of medium-chain fatty acids or MCTs.

Researchers say this healthy type of fatty acid is easy for your body to quickly burn for energy and is less likely to form artery-clogging LDL (bad) cholesterol. Coconut oil also has a saturated fat called lauric acid, a type of MCT that in some studies has been shown to increase the good HDL cholesterol in the blood to help improve cholesterol ratio levels.

They also point out that in the Pacific Islands, where coconut oil makes up 30 percent to 60 percent of the diet; heart disease rates are very low.

“Coconut oil’s special HDL-boosting effect may make it ‘less bad’ than the high saturated fat content would indicate, but it’s still probably not the best choice among the many available oils to reduce the risk of heart disease, some scientists say, adding that olive oil and soybean oil are healthier.

Most experts agree that while eating coconut oil in moderation isn’t likely to harm your health; further studies need to be conducted to determine whether coconut oil is capable of many of the claims. Despite emerging research, the recommendation is still to limit your total saturated fat intake.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Researchers develop novel molecular blood group typing technique

Scientists in France have designed a new system for molecular blood group typing that offers blood banks the possibility of extensive screening of blood donors at a relatively low cost.

Although blood transfusion is generally safe, alloimmunization (when an antibody is formed in response to an antigen that is not present on a person's own red blood cells) remains a dreaded complication, particularly in patients with sickle cell diseases.

This may cause problems, ranging from delayed hemolytic transfusion reaction to difficulty in obtaining matched RBCs. Where patients have alloantibodies, producing a sufficient quantity of extensively typed blood units will never be feasible using conventional serologic donor screening methods.

The standard technique, conventional hemagglutination, is a lengthy procedure and involves only a limited range of antigen testing. In this antibody-based agglutination, RBCs suspended in liquid collect into clumps when bound by the antigen-specific antibody. The investigators therefore developed a new flexible DNA microarray platform for molecular blood group typing. This includes two robotic workstations that allow processing from blood sample to the genotype. A pilot study shows promising results for responding to blood donor laboratories' requirements for simple, low-cost screening.

High-throughput DNA typing could facilitate support for patients undergoing long-term transfusion who are at high risk of alloantibody production, such as patients with sickle cell disease, thalassemia, or autoimmune hemolytic anemia. Another application would be donor identification to obtain rare blood units for specific patients and improve the ability to supply rare blood types. The availability of high throughput DNA-based blood group genotyping would be a great boon for transfusion medicine. In addition to providing more fully antigen-matched RBCs and allowing better identification of rare donor blood types, this technology will reduce adverse reactions and decrease the relative cost of analysis.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Sitting is the new Smoking

Doctors are now warning that spending too much time perched on your posterior could be seriously damaging your health!

The average person now spends a staggering 8.9 hours every day sitting down. That might be at work, in a car or on the sofa in front of the TV. Add another seven hours sleeping and that means most of us spend just one third of our time on our feet.

Those prolonged periods of inactivity increase our risk of obesity, but they also cause a staggering list of other conditions. This includes heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, muscular and back issues, deep vein thrombosis, brittle bones, depression and even dementia.

Experts are now describing sitting as ‘the new smoking’, a ticking time bomb of ill health just waiting to explode. The World Health Organisation has already identified physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer on the planet, ahead of obesity. It’s like smoking during the 1970s and passive smoking during the 90s. We all know a sedentary lifestyle is bad for us, we just don’t realize how bad it is. Spending less time sitting down really can add years to your life.

The World Health Organisation ¬recommends an adult should do at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, or 30 minutes on at least five days. That is enough to gain the main benefits of regular exercise. However, it won’t protect you from the dangers of a sedentary lifestyle if you spend too much time sitting.

Sitting for too long slows down the body’s metabolism and the way the enzyme lipoprotein lipase breaks down our fat reserves. On the other hand, blood glucose levels and blood pressure both increase.

Small amounts of regular activity, even just standing and moving around, throughout the day is enough to bring the increased levels backing down. And those small amounts of activity add up – scientists have suggested that 30 minutes of light activity in two or three-minute bursts could be just as effective as a half-hour block of exercise. But without that activity, blood sugar levels and blood pressure keep creeping up, steadily damaging the inside of the arteries and raising the risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Quick & simple blood test for solid cancers looks feasible

The idea of a general, quick and simple blood test for a diverse range of cancers just came closer to reality with news of a new study published in Nature Medicine. Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine have devised an ultra-sensitive method for finding DNA from cancer tumors in the bloodstream.

Previous research has already shown circulating tumor DNA holds promise as a biomarker for cancer, but existing methods for detecting it are not sufficiently sensitive and do not cover a diverse range of cancers. Ways to increase the sensitivity and coverage of such tests exist, but these are cumbersome and time-consuming, and need lots of steps to customize for individual patients, so they are not feasible for use in clinics.

The new approach promises to change that. It is highly sensitive and specific and should be broadly applicable to a range of cancers, say the researchers.

Their new test identified around half of patients with stage 1 lung cancer and all patients with stage 2 or higher disease. They also showed the circulation tumor DNA was highly correlated with tumor volume estimated using CT and PET scans. This suggests an approach based on the new test could monitor tumors at a fraction of the cost of present methods that rely on imaging studies.

Blood cancers like leukemia can be easier to monitor than solid tumors through ease of access to the blood. By developing a general method for monitoring circulating tumor DNA, the researchers are in effect trying to transform solid tumors into liquid tumors that can be detected and tracked more easily.

Cancer cells divide and die, even without treatment. When a cancer cell dies, the DNA in its nucleus escapes into the bloodstream. This is present in small concentrations; something like 1 in 1,000 or 10,000 bits of DNA in the blood can be from a dead cancer cell in a person with cancer.

Even in patients with advanced cancer, the vast majority of DNA circulating in their blood is from healthy, normal cells. So a test that can quickly and non-invasively monitor the tiny concentrations of cancer cell DNA would be really useful to clinicians who need to estimate the size of the tumor, how it changes over time, and monitor a patient's response to treatment.

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Testing Kidney Function Using an Alternative Filtration Marker

Diabetic kidney disease accounts for 40 percent of prevalent chronic kidney disease (CKD) and 50 percent of incident end-stage renal disease (ESRD). Individuals with diabetes and CKD are at an even greater risk of morbidity and mortality. In practice, kidney function is estimated rather than measured; estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) using serum creatinine is the most common method of testing the kidney's function. When using serum creatinine to measure kidney function, age, muscle mass, sex and race are factors in kidney function. A valid alternative to using serum creatinine would be to use cystatin-C, an endogenous protein produced by almost all nucleated cells. Cystatin-C is less affected by age, race and muscle mass; however, BMI, diabetes and inflammation may affect cystatin levels.

There have been many previous studies concerning the effectiveness of eGFR. A recent study analyzed true glomerular filtration rate (GFR) versus urinary creatinine clearance and found that the common method of estimating GFR demonstrated poor precision in critical care patients. Many researchers are analyzing more accurate and precise methods to measure kidney

This study analyzed participants, aged 20 and older with available results of cystatin C. Researchers compared the performance of eGFR using cystatin-C to eGFR using creatinine in the identification of kidney function in diabetic participants. There were 4,457 participants with preserved or reduced kidney function that were analyzed in this study; 778 of the participants had diabetes.

Of the 778 participants with diabetes, the prevalence of reduced kidney functions was greatest among the estimated glomerular filtration rate using cystatin (eGFR). There was a 22 percent prevalence of reduced kidney function using cystatin-C and a 16.5 percent prevalence using creatinine. Other results showed more persons with diabetes were re-classified from preserved kidney function using creatinine to reduced kidney function using cystatin-C. There was strong association between lower eGFR and higher prevalence of complications also.

In conclusion, this study found that using cystatin-C filtration when estimating glomerular filtration rate leads to more diabetic patients being classified with reduced kidney function than by using creatinine filtration as an estimator.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Blood Tests in Dengue Fever

Dengue is a mosquito borne viral infection. In simple words, dengue is caused by dengue virus that gains entry into the human body via mosquito bites. Because dengue is a viral disease, there is no definitive drug that can treat it. But the complications of dengue can be prevented well with accurate diagnosis and early detection.

The incidence of dengue has risen significantly in the past few decades. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 2.5 billion people in the world are now at risk of suffering from dengue.

Warning signs, duration of the symptoms and appropriate physical examination are main factors involved in dengue diagnosis. ‘Diagnosis of dengue is usually done based on patient’s symptoms and physical examination, especially in endemic areas. A probable diagnosis is made on the findings of fever with the following symptoms: nausea and vomiting, rash and generalized pain. Warning signs typically occur before the onset of severe dengue. Diagnosis should be considered in anyone who develops a fever within two weeks of being in the tropics or subtropical region. Common tests used in dengue diagnosis include:

Complete Blood Count: Both the experts highlighted low platelet count as an important factor in dengue diagnosis. A complete blood count (CBC) is of significant importance for clinical diagnosis of dengue. If a patient has high fever and is found to have a low platelet count, dengue is suspected. Normal platelet count in a healthy individual is about 2.5 lakh cells/cubic mm.

ELISA test for dengue NS1 Ag: Viruses have the tendency to attack platelets and destroy them, thereby lowering the platelet count. But, a low platelet count does not always mean that you are suffering from dengue. Your platelet count can be lowered in any kind of viral infection. That the reason why we need more specific tests to confirm dengue. ELISA NS1 Antigen test is a specific test for detecting dengue virus antigen. But this test may show negative results in the early stages of the disease. So the test needs to be repeated on the 2nd ,3rd or 4th day for confirmatory results.

PCR for detecting viral DNA: Detection of NS1 during the early phase of a primary infection may be greater than 90% but for subsequent infections it is only 60–80%. So, PCR and viral detection test is considered. This test is more reliable in the first 7 days of infection, when NS1 Ag test may be negative despite infection.

Serum IgG and IgM test: Serum antibody tests are useful for confirming a diagnosis in the later stages of the infection. Once the virus gains entry into the body, the immune cells begin to produce antibodies IgG and IgM against the virus. The level of these antibodies increases gradually and remains high for a really long time. So it is also a useful indicator of a previous infection.

Dengue can affect anyone but tends to be more severe in people with compromised immune systems. Because it is caused by one of five serotypes of virus, it is possible to get dengue fever multiple times. However, an attack of dengue produces immunity for a lifetime to that particular viral serotype to which the patient was exposed.

World Health Day - 7 April 2014

World Health Day is celebrated on 7 April every year to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health. The Day provides an opportunity for individuals in every community to get involved in activities that can lead to better health. The topic for 2014 is vector-borne diseases.

Vectors are organisms that transmit pathogens and parasites from one infected person (or animal) to another. Vector-borne diseases are illnesses caused by these pathogens and parasites in human populations. They are most commonly found in tropical areas and places where access to safe drinking-water and sanitation systems is problematic.

The most deadly vector-borne disease, malaria, caused an estimated 660 000 deaths in 2010. Most of these were African children. However, the world's fastest growing vector-borne disease is dengue, with a 30-fold increase in disease incidence over the last 50 years. Globalization of trade and travel and environmental challenges such as climate change and urbanization are having an impact on transmission of vector-borne diseases, and causing their appearance in countries where they were previously unknown.

In recent years, renewed commitments from ministries of health, regional and global health initiatives – with the support of foundations, nongovernmental organizations, the private sector and the scientific community – have helped to lower the incidence and death rates from some vector-borne diseases.

World Health Day 2014 will spotlight some of the most commonly known vectors – such as mosquitoes, sandflies, bugs, ticks and snails – responsible for transmitting a wide range of parasites and pathogens that attack humans or animals. Mosquitoes, for example, not only transmit malaria and dengue, but also lymphatic filariasis, chikungunya, Japanese encephalitis and yellow fever.

Saturday, 5 April 2014

Blood Clots More Likely In AB Blood Types

AB blood type is a significant risk factor for venous thromboembolism, or blood clots, a new study suggests.

Researchers from Denmark analyzed looked for blood type and the presence of two genetic mutations, in addition to occurrence of blood clots and heart attacks. Type AB blood, they found, was a significant risk factor for blood clots, accounting for 20 percent of the risk for venous thromboembolism. And the risk was especially high when those with AB blood type also had one or both of two genetic mutations, called V Leiden and prothrombin. The researchers also considered incidence of heart attack but found no consistent increased risk.

But don't panic if your blood type is AB. The study's findings are not necessarily new, nor will they change clinical practice- at least not for now.

Links between blood type, clotting (thrombosis), and its opposite, bleeding, may have to do with a blood component called von Willebrand levels, which are associated with bleeding. People with type O blood have the lowest von Willebrand levels (which make them more likely to bleed); those with AB blood have the highest levels (making them likely to clot); and people with type A and type B blood fall in between.

Many people at risk for thromboembolism are at risk because of underlying disease, age, or the fact that they are in the hospital or just had surgery, and they are probably receiving anti-clotting (anticoagulation) medication without knowing their von Willebrand levels. Is it something doctors might eventually measure to prescribe more or less medication? Maybe, but that's far off.

Although the Danish study is relevant, there's not a lot of data on how to turn it into therapeutic decision-making. Maybe in the future. It adds to a literature that's really just beginning to become to convincing.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

A simple blood test can now predict your risk of sudden cardiac death

Samuel C Dudley, a lifespan researcher from Rhode Island in the US has found that a simple blood test can predict a person's risk for Sudden Cardiac Death (SCD) enabling physicians to more quickly and accurately assess a patient's need for an implantable cardiac defibrillator (ICD). The new blood test is in a pilot phase and will be validated in a large, multi-site trial led by Dudley and other researchers at Lifespan's CVI anticipated to start this fall.

Currently risk assessments are determined by measuring the fraction of blood ejected from the heart in any one heartbeat, the ejection fraction. When the ejection fraction falls below 35%, a patient may benefit from an ICD.

It is believed that approximately 60% of patients who receive defibrillators as a result of these assessments may not actually need one. This blood test will determine more accurately which patients do in fact need the defibrillator.

Sudden cardiac death is an unexpected death caused by loss of heart function, or sudden cardiac arrest. The incidence rate is quite high in India - about 10% of all cardiac-related deaths are sudden while the mean age of the patients who die is lower than 60 years. Studies have showed that one-third of the patients who die of SCD had heart attacks in the past and 80% of them were smokers or had risk factors like hypertension and diabetes.

SCD is a condition in which the heart unexpectedly stops beating. When this occurs, blood stops flowing to the brain and other vital organs. If not treated the sufferer dies within minutes.

Our heart has an electrical system that controls the rate and rhythm of the heartbeat. Abnormal functioning of this electrical system can cause irregular heartbeats called arrhythmias. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow or with an irregular rhythm. Some arrhythmias can cause the heart to stop pumping blood to the body and this leads to SCA. This, however, is not the same as a heart attack.

A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to part of the heart muscle is blocked but the heart usually doesn't stop beating. People who have heart disease are at higher risk. But people who appear healthy and have no known risk factors can also fall prey to this killer.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Sleep apnea could lead to elevated blood sugar levels

Researchers have linked sleep apnea with elevated blood sugar levels, raising fears that people with this condition could be at an increased risk of cardiovascular illness and mortality.

Sleep apnea is a type of sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing or instances of shallow or infrequent breathing during sleep. Each pause in breathing, called an apnea, can last from at least ten seconds to several minutes, and may occur 5 to 30 times or more an hour.

The researchers measured levels of HbA1c, which correlates with average plasma glucose concentration. This measurement allows researchers to gain an understanding of blood sugar levels over a period of time.

People with diabetes have higher levels of HbA1c and the risk of developing cardiovascular complications is increased as these levels are raised. (The target levels for HbA1c are 4.09 per cent for non-diabetics and up to 6.5 per cent for diabetics).

The results found that levels of glucose concentration were significantly linked with the severity of sleep apnea. The participants in this research were divided into groups based on their level of sleep apnea severity and HbA1c levels rose from 5.24 per cent in the group with lowest severity to 5.50 per cent in the group with the highest severity. The findings highlight the need for clinicians to be aware of the risks of diabetes when treating sleep apnea. The findings have been published online in the European Respiratory Journal.

Medilab Palarivattom branch is being shifted to a new location

We feel great pleasure to kindly inform you that Medilab Speciality Laboratories’ Palarivattom branch is being shifted to a more convenient location on the highway near Muthoot Honda, opposite to Global Tyres and below Joy’s Dental Clinic. We have facilities for entire range of laboratory testing, ECG and digital X-Ray at this new centre which also offers different packages for preventive health checkups.

Medilab Speciality Laboratories is NABL accredited (ISO15189-2003), the second laboratory in Kerala to obtain this international quality certification. We also adhere to in-house quality control system in line with ISO 15189: 2007 and we have on going participations with the External Quality Assurance Schemes set up by CMC Vellore, AIIMS, New Delhi and Randox Laboratories, UK.

Sir, we would like to take this opportunity to invite you to the formal launch of our new Palarivattom centre by Padma Shri Dr. Philip Augustine at 10:30 AM, on Wednesday, 9 April 2014. We thank you so much for your past patronage and assure you of better and brighter service in future.


For Medilab Speciality Laboratories (India) Pvt. Ltd
Dr. T.A. Varkey
Managing Director


Venue: Medilab, NH 47, Near Muthoot Honda, Palarivattom
Lighting the Lamp: Padma Shri Dr. Philip Augustine
Time: 10:30 AM, on Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Difference Between Blood Pressure in Both the Arms

Have you ever had your blood pressure checked in both arms at your doctor’s office? Researchers at Mass General Hospital say you probably should. A small difference between the two arms is normal. But a larger one could mean you’re at risk for heart disease.

Dr. Ido Weinberg, a vascular medicine specialist, and colleagues at MGH, looked at data on nearly 3,400 local residents over the age of 40 enrolled in the Framingham heart study. “Patients who have that difference between arms could end up developing heart and blood vessel disease,” Dr. Weinberg said.

Researchers found that people with a systolic blood pressure difference of 10 points or more between their arms were 38% more likely to develop a blood vessel disorder like a heart attack, stroke, or blockages in their legs. The theory is that a significant difference in blood pressure between arms could indicate plaque in the arteries feeding the arm with the higher number. And having plaque in the vessels that feed your arms probably means you have plaque elsewhere, too.

Everyone over the age of 40 should have their blood pressure measured in both their arms at least once in their lives. “If you do have a difference, then you’d like your blood pressure to be managed according to the higher of the two,” Dr. Weinberg says. If you do have your blood pressure measured in the office setting, and you do find that difference, that may mean you may have an increased risk and that’s something most people may want to know.