Anxiety and High Blood Pressure Tests

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Blood Pressure, Q&As
Last Reviewed 02/17/2014

Anxiety and High Blood Pressure Tests

When I take my blood pressure, the same thing always happens. The first blood pressure test reading is always high. Then I wait a couple of minutes and the next reading is lower. Finally, I wait a few more minutes and the reading is lower still. Which reading is accurate?

Most folks are consciously or unconsciously apprehensive when they take their blood pressure, even at home. Because of this anxiety for high blood pressure tests, I've found it's always best to throw out the first reading, and average the second two.

Doctors find this same phenomenon in the office, which we attribute to "white coat hypertension," or anxiety about the person in the white coat getting a high blood pressure test reading. Apprehension and anxiety can push a person's nervous system into fight-or-flight mode, driving up blood pressure.

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