What Is White Coat Hypertension?
Learn how this common condition could be causing your high blood pressure readings
Often, when patients come to my office, I will get a high blood pressure reading. However, when they go home and measure it themselves, their blood pressure reading is normal. Occasionally they’ll ask if the instruments in my office are off, or if my staff misread the result.
It’s neither of those. The actual problem is a common condition called white coat hypertension. It’s used to describe people whose anxiety over a visit to a physician, dentist, or other medical facility evokes a fight-or-flight response and, as a result, their blood pressure goes up.
A Closer Look at White Coat Hypertension
Given the above definition, you might think that white coat hypertension is harmless. However, that may not be the case. Research has shown that abnormally high blood pressure readings in a medical setting could be more than just a benign byproduct of anxiety. White coat hypertension could be a precursor to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular risks.
A Danish study published in the Journal of Human Hypertension found a heightened cardiovascular event risk for patients with white coat hypertension over a 10-year period. A Japanese study reported in the journal Hypertension Research suggests that white coat hypertension contributes to carotid arteriosclerosis. And in another Japanese medical report—based on eight years of observation—researchers suggest that white coat hypertension is a “transitional condition to hypertension” and may carry a “poor cardiovascular prognosis.”
Now with that said, I also have to tell you that white coat hypertension is still poorly understood. But my professional opinion is that you should err on the side of caution. If you experience white coat hypertension, I suggest you take the following steps to help get it under control and avoid potential problems:
- Practice stress-reduction techniques regularly.
- Watch your salt intake.
- Consider blood pressure–friendly supplements on a daily basis.
More Dr. Sinatra Advice on Understanding Blood Pressure
What should your blood pressure reading be? Find out what your blood pressure numbers should be and what causes high blood pressure.
Are you a woman with blood pressure concerns? Discover why women are especially susceptible to high blood pressure and its negative impact on health.
What’s the best diet to reduce high blood pressure? Learn how the Pan-Asian Mediterranean approach to eating can help lower your blood pressure.
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Meet Dr. Sinatra
Dr. Stephen Sinatra is a highly respected and sought-after cardiologist and nutritionist with more than 30 years of clinical practice, research, and study. His integrative approach to heart health focuses on reducing inflammation in the body and maximizing the heart's ability to produce and use energy. More About Dr. Sinatra
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