White-Coat Hypertension

White-Coat Hypertension is the name given to a phenomenon whereby people visiting a doctor, and having their blood pressure checked, experience an abnormally high blood pressure reading only while at the doctor’s office. An article discussing this condition appeared in the March 25, 2003 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

In the article, William B. White, MD. professor and head of the hypertension and clinical pharmacology program at the University of Connecticut Health centre said, “This alarmingly high blood pressure occurs only when the patient is in a physician’s office. The patient’s blood pressure is remarkably higher when measured by a doctor but lower when measured in a different setting, such as a senior centre or at home.” Dr. White also estimated that one-third of senior citizens with mild hypertension suffer from the condition and are often treated with unneeded medications.

“I was treating a gentleman for uncontrolled and resistant [to medication] high blood pressure,’ says White. ‘One day he walked in, jumped up on the table and mentioned he’d just come from playing nine holes of golf. He looked great and felt great. I took his blood pressure and it was 298 over 100. [Normal is 130/90.] I asked him how he felt, and he said terrific. It just didn’t make any sense, until he mentioned that his blood pressure was always lower when it was measured anywhere other than a doctor’s office.”

Most folks admit to feeling nervous during a doctor’s visit. But for some, the stress of being in a medical setting goes well beyond being anxious about an exam or a shot. The article offered two suggestions to those who feel they might be a candidate for this phenomenon. First they recommend that you also have your blood pressure monitored somewhere other than the doctors office, and secondly if you’ve noticed a persistent discrepancy between your blood pressure readings at your doctor’s office and those taken elsewhere, you should let your health care provider know.