* WCH occurs in 15-30% of people, causing elevated blood pressure during doctor visits.
* If BP is higher at the doctor's office than at home, it may be WCH, leading to potential misdiagnosis.
* Understanding WCH involves recognizing its symptoms, causes, and the importance of accurate readings.
* Management and prevention include relaxation techniques, lifestyle changes, and open communication with your doctor.
White coat hypertension causes high blood pressure readings at the doctor's office about 15-30% of the time. If your blood pressure is higher at the doctor's office than at home, you may have white coat hypertension. This can lead to misdiagnosis of hypertension.
Hence, let's understand white coat syndrome, its symptoms, causes and diagnosis. We will also provide you with some tips to manage it.
White coat hypertension (WCH), also called white coat syndrome, is the phenomenon of getting high blood pressure readings when the doctor is checking your BP. But your blood pressure at home or in other settings is normal. The name white coat is because the doctors who measure blood pressure often wear a white coat.
Normal blood pressure falls below 120/80 mm Hg, while readings surpassing 130/90 mm Hg indicate hypertension. In the case of white coat hypertension, your home monitor may show readings below 120/80 mm Hg. However, readings at the doctor's office could surpass 130/90 mm Hg.
White coat hypertension might not seem a major issue. However, every year, doctors diagnose hypertension in about 5% of people who actually have white coat hypertension. This might lead them to prescribe medicines that you do not need, leading to side effects like hypotension (abnormally low BP).
WCH may also signal a risk of developing hypertension in future and increased cardiovascular and organ damage risks.
We all are anxious when visiting the doctor's office. But some people are more susceptible to it than others. For example, seeing a doctor may trigger the "flight or fight" response in some individuals, resulting in a surge in blood pressure.
People who have had negative experiences with doctors are more likely to experience WCH. Anxiety about blood pressure checks at the doctor's office increases the likelihood of WCH.
The other things that may affect your blood pressure are:
White coat hypertension does not present any symptoms. You may feel stress or anxiety that may be increasing your BP.
When your blood pressure seems high at the doctor's office, they might want to monitor it over the next few weeks or months. But If you've experienced white coat hypertension before, it could happen again. Hence, your doctor might recommend checking your blood pressure at home to make things more transparent.
You can do it with a home BP monitor, which you can purchase online or from a pharmacy store. Using this monitor, you can take multiple readings daily and show them to your doctor for their opinion.
Another option is to get an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. You can strap this device to your body and wear it for a day to 2 days. It measures your BP every 20-30 minutes after wearing it.
Hence, by comparing your BP readings at home with those you get at the doctor's office, your doctor can diagnose you properly.
Avoiding white coat hypertension can give you a more accurate reading and prevent misdiagnosis. You should follow these simple tips to beat white coat hypertension.
Your doctor would only treat hypertension only if you have other lifestyle diseases like diabetes. Primarily, white coat hypertension treatment involves lifestyle changes to improve your heart health. Some changes you can make include:
The best way is to follow the tips for managing white coat hypertension. You can also communicate with your doctor. Talking to them about your concerns and getting assurance can help you destress and may improve your blood pressure reading.
Yes, white coat syndrome is real and affects about 15 to 30% of people who get their BP checked in the doctor's office.
Yes, white coat hypertension may potentially be dangerous. If you have white coat hypertension, your chances of developing hypertension is higher in the long run. Also, it might lead to a misdiagnosis of hypertension, leading you to start hypertension medication without having the disease.
Also Read: A Guide On Hypertension
Having anxiety does not cause long-term hypertension. However, it can spike your blood pressure when you are feeling anxious. Hence, having an anxiety disorder may cause WCH if you feel uneasy during a doctor's visit.
Understanding white coat hypertension is crucial to avoid potential misdiagnosis and unnecessary medication. In 15-30% of cases, this phenomenon manifests as elevated blood pressure during doctor visits but normalizes elsewhere. Mistaking it may lead to unwarranted hypertension treatment and associated side effects.
By following tips and fostering open communication with your doctor, you can manage WCH, ensuring accurate readings and personalized care.
Consider using the Aware Health Rewards app to track your BP and improve your heart health. Along with tracking, Aware also provides daily nudges to improve your health and prevent you from developing hypertension. Download the Aware Health Rewards app today!