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What is white coat hypertension?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner
Some people are told they have white coat hypertension. This means that the person’s blood pressure may be elevated at the doctor’s office or clinic but not at home or at other times. Measuring the blood pressure outside the doctor’s office can help discover this discrepancy and possibly eliminate unnecessary treatment. In addition, you can wear a simple blood pressure monitor that automatically measures the blood pressure day and night to obtain an accurate reading. It’s better to do try wearing a monitor and be aware of blood pressure discrepancies than to be in the dark when it comes to knowing your real risk for hypertension and the resulting serious problems. 
 

High blood pressure is typically defined as a reading of 140/90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) on two or more visits to the doctor’s office. But in some patients, the doctor’s office reading may be higher than that person’s blood pressure as measured at home. This is referred to as white-coat hypertension. Research suggests that the temporary spike in blood pressure is a stress response in those patients.

If your physician thinks your elevated blood pressure may be white-coat hypertension, he or she may have you monitor your blood pressure on an ongoing basis at home and keep a log, or it may be suggested that you wear a monitor that can take periodic readings. Based on these readings gathered over time, your physician can recommend beginning medication (or adjusting current dosages) and appropriate lifestyle changes. 

Some research studies have found that patients with white-coat hypertension are more likely than people with normal blood pressure to develop high blood pressure. If you have white-coat hypertension, you may still wish to speak with your physician about ways you can maintain a healthy blood pressure level over the coming years.

A small number of people experience "white coat hypertension," which is very elevated blood pressure when visiting their healthcare professional while blood pressure at home is normal. At home, you can check your blood pressure in a setting that's more comfortable for you to get a more accurate reading.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.