What Is White Coat Hypertension And Can It Harm Your Heart?
Can White Coat Hypertension Harm Your Heart?
You may have heard about or experienced white coat hypertension. This condition occurs when your blood pressure is normal at home and in other nonmedical settings but the stress of a medical appointment triggers a temporary rise in your blood pressure. It has long been observed by doctors and thought to be only a minor issue. But a large study suggests that people who have white coat hypertension may face a greater threat of heart disease than people whose blood pressure readings are always normal.
Let’s take a closer look at white coat hypertension and the steps you can take to lower your risks of heart disease.
What Is White Coat Hypertension?
If your blood pressure is normal at home but rises slightly when you have a medical appointment, the condition is called white coat hypertension. The name comes from the fact that doctors and other healthcare professionals who measure your blood pressure have traditionally worn white coats.
It’s common for some people to feel anxious before and during a medical visit, and anxiety can increase your blood pressure. Everyone’s blood pressure numbers move up and down throughout the day. Doctors consider a 120/80 reading to be normal blood pressure, and a blood pressure reading of 130/80 is typically diagnosed as hypertension. If you’re experiencing white coat hypertension, it doesn’t mean that you’re suffering from general hypertension. Hypertension is diagnosed when high blood pressure readings occur in many scenarios.
The Risks of White Coat Hypertension
White coat hypertension isn’t always a minor, isolated issue For other people, the blood pressure spike may be a sign of a more serious condition. Stress and anxiety may play a role in high blood pressure, so people with white coat hypertension may have a higher risk of blood pressure-related issues. As one cardiologist put it, “If your blood pressure goes up under the relatively nonthreatening situation of seeing a doctor, then what might happen if you’re cut off on the highway, or experience a challenging family or work circumstance?” Some doctors think that white coat hypertension might signal that you’re at risk of developing general hypertension.
A large 2019 study showed that people with untreated white coat hypertension had a 36% higher risk of heart attack, stroke, or other heart-related events, and they were twice as likely to die from heart disease. The study’s findings have changed the way many doctors approach white coat hypertension in their patients.
Managing White Coat Hypertension
If your blood pressure measurements indicate that you have may have white coat hypertension, speak with your doctor. You may need to monitor your blood pressure at home, either by taking your own blood pressure frequently or wearing a blood pressure monitor.
If you’re diagnosed with white coat hypertension, your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medications. Your doctor may also suggest other approaches to managing your blood pressure, such as exercising, losing weight, reducing your salt intake, and stopping smoking.
Stress is considered a major factor in white coat hypertension, so finding ways to reduce stress in your life can also help you manage your blood pressure. Getting adequate sleep and incorporating relaxation exercises and mindfulness techniques into your daily routine are simple ways to relieve stress.
An App to Help You
Managing your white coat hypertension doesn’t have to be complicated. One way to achieve your exercise goals is to start walking. Even two miles a day at a moderate pace can improve heart health for people over the age of 65, advises Dr. Herbert Semler, a cardiologist trained at the Mayo Clinic and our founder. Heart Club, our doctor-designed app, provides an easy way to keep track of your progress. It includes a step counter to track your distance. It also checks your blood pressure and gives you access to important medical data — all on your phone. See how Heart Club can help you manage your white coat hypertension and general heart health.