Articles Cardiovascular Disease Testing & Diagnosis

What’s Your ABI? Peripheral Vascular Disease

Knowing your Ankle-Brachial Index (ABI) can help you determine your risk of cardiovascular disease and prevent major complications of peripheral vascular disease. What’s your ABI?

Measuring Your ABI

The easiest way to measure your ABI is with a manual blood pressure cuff and a handheld Doppler.

Not all clinics can do this, but any vascular office can do this for you. Many of our patients will perform this themselves if they are at risk for peripheral vascular disease.

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease often manifests with atherosclerosis, which can lead to calcification and/or hardening of the arteries.

This stiffening of the vessels will often cause the ABI (ankle blood pressure divided by arm blood pressure) to be low and, in some instances, too high.

Stiffening of the arteries in the lower extremities, which is the hallmark of Peripheral Vascular Disease (PVD), can present with weakness in the legs, cramps, or pain.

The ideal ABI is in the 1.0 – 1.4 range. Any value of 1.4 could indicate stiffness of the arteries. If the value is below 0.8, it would indicate blockage of the arteries in the lower extremities.

ABI Testing at Home

The best way to test your ABI at home would be to purchase a manual blood pressure cuff and obtain a handheld Doppler, which measures fetal heart rate.

Both of these are quite inexpensive, and you can purchase them online or at most medical supply stores.

Inflate the cuff to make the arterial sound disappear and release pressure until the sound reappears. This is the systolic reading for both the arm and the leg.

Great ABI Video from Standford

The following video shows how to measure your ABI in the ambulatory (outpatient) setting to determine someone’s risk for PVD.

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