Is it High Blood Pressure or White Coat Hypertension?

doctor taking a blood pressure reading

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels is consistently too high. When high blood pressure is not addressed in a timely fashion it can lead to serious health risks such as heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease. In order to control high blood pressure, it’s important that you regularly have your blood pressure tested, and that you understand blood pressure readings. These readings consist of two numbers. The top number measures your systolic pressure, which is the maximum pressure your heart exerts while beating. The second number, or bottom number, is the diastolic pressure, which is the amount of pressure in your arteries between beats. In order to understand what is normal and what can be qualified as hypertension, the American Heart Association recognizes a set range of blood pressure readings. Whether you have high blood pressure or white coat hypertension, you will experience an increase in your blood pressure reading.

What is Whitecoat Hypertension?

high blood pressure chart

Whitecoat hypertension is a condition where blood pressure readings are higher in a doctor’s office than they are in other environments, like at home or at work. This condition occurs when the stress of being in a medical setting triggers a sudden spike in blood pressure. While some may think that since whitecoat hypertension is insignificant due to its sporadic nature, studies have recently linked this condition with a great threat of heart disease.  

In this study, researchers concluded that when compared with people whose blood pressure was normal in both the doctor’s office and at home, those with untreated whitecoat hypertension had a 36% higher risk of health risks commonly associated with high blood pressure such as stroke and heart attack. The researchers also found that this group was twice as likely to die from heart disease. These findings align with the idea that people with whitecoat hypertension experience more frequent and higher blood pressure spikes in more situations than just the doctor’s office. Research also suggests that what may initially be a case of white coat hypertension may progress to a more sustained version of high blood pressure.

To identify whether or not you have white coat syndrome, your doctor may suggest that you wear a blood pressure monitor for at least 24 hours to track your blood pressure throughout the day. This will help distinguish if your high blood pressure reading is due to nervousness associated with a doctor’s office, or if it’s a more consistent issue. 

No matter if you have chronic high blood pressure or white coat hypertension, both conditions can be controlled by lifestyle changes or medications. Limiting sodium intake, exercising regularly, and not smoking can all contribute to lowering high blood pressure. 

Make An Appointment

The staff at Durham Nephrology Associates are dedicated to providing quality care to patients in Durham and Oxford with kidney disease and high blood pressure. If you have any questions about your blood pressure or the steps you can take to improving your high blood pressure, request an appointment, or call us directly at (919) 447-3005. 


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