White Coat Hypertension
All Bark and No Bite!
What is “white coat hypertension?”
Well it`s different from real high blood pressure, one of the most prevalent health problems on the planet.
There are 74.5 million people age 20 and older who have been diagnosed with HBP or hypertension. The good news is, it`s easily treatable. Better still, you may not even be suffering from it after all despite your doctor`s diagnosis, but be simply stricken with fear of him!
This phenomena often occurs when a patient`s blood pressure is taken in the doctor’s surgery. It becomes elevated due to the anxiety that he or she may feel when in the presence of a doctor.
Another term used for it is “white coat syndrome”, that only takes place in a medical setting and nowhere else. Again, this is why home blood pressure monitoring is important and doctors are encouraging their patients to try.
This will allow your doctor to know whether or not your high blood pressure is caused by the anxiety of being in the surgery, or if there is an underlying health condition that needs to be addressed.
White coat hypertension is often difficult for medical professionals to diagnose due to the fact that they are using unreliable, conventional measures. The most common instrument used to get a blood pressure reading is a sphygmomanometer, also known as the blood pressure cuff and is often accompanied by a stethoscope. The cuff is placed around the arm of the patient and tightened with air pressure, the air is then slowly released until the nurse or doctor detects a beat… and until the beat disappears. Most hospitals and surgeries are now equipped with automatic monitors, but even with the use of modern technology and other measures to ensure a patient is relaxed, a regular pattern for most patients can be hard to obtain.
Ambulatory Monitoring Dated 26/08/2011
The recommended guidelines of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is for most patients to receive ambulatory blood pressure monitoring at home normally for a 24hr period. This is a good move forward to obtaining a more accurate diagnosis of a patient who may be suffering from white coat hypertension.
A cuff and a device is strapped onto the patient that will take a measurement twice every hour throughout the day while the patient goes about his normal daily routine.
According to the Lancet, this method of monitoring a patient who initially had a high reading in the clinic will give a more accurate diagnosis before they are prescribed medication saving the health service money.
I think it is one of the best pieces of health news I have heard in a long time because it means less people will be given drugs that in the long run, harm the patient when there was no need in the first place!
Monitoring at Home
At this point I should state that the best way to monitor your blood pressure is to take it at home on a regular basis. There are a wide variety of units that can be bought over the counter. Automatics are the preferred and easier choice but there are still manual monitors available.
Checking your blood pressure at home allows you to get a better idea of what your numbers really are, and you don’t have to be a trained medical professional to to carry it out either.
The reading can be inaccurate if the blood pressure cuff is not placed in the right position, is not inflated enough, or the wrong fit. This is one reason why more health care centers and hospitals are turning to electronic devices that help eliminate human error.
The most important thing to understand about white coat hypertension is that it is not serious. Actually, it isn’t even a true medical condition that needs to be treated. There have been numerous studies conducted that have shown patients with white coat hypertension but lacking the other signs that are indicative of high blood pressure, such as irregular heartbeats, headaches, or inflammation.
The best way for you to make sure you are staying on top of your blood pressure according to the medical experts, is to monitor yourself at home.
You should pick a time of day to check your blood pressure and stick to that time whether you are monitoring daily, a few days a week, or once a week. Then sitting comfortably with your arm supported and level with your heart, take your reading. Don’t monitor while in bed or immediately after moving as your readings will be different depending on your position and level of activity.
Remember, white coat hypertension is a medical phenomenon that is not associated with any real underlying medical conditions. It is simply an elevated reading due to anxiety that is caused by being in the doctor’s surgery. The best way your doctor can get an accurate picture of your blood pressure is for you to help out by home blood pressure monitoring.