White Coat Hypertension and High Blood Pressure Readings

Filed Under: Heart Health, Blood Pressure Webinar
Last Reviewed 03/02/2015

White Coat Hypertension and High Blood Pressure Readings

Often, when patients come to my office, I will get high blood pressure readings; 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 readings go up.

A Closer Look at High Blood Pressure Readings at the Doctor’s Office

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 high blood pressure readings caused by 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.”

Tips to Avoid High Blood Pressure Readings

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 high blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office, I suggest you take the following steps to help get it under control and avoid potential problems.

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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