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What is "White Coat Hypertension"? | Senior Health

May 31, 2018 by Comfort Keepers Denver

It is estimated that over a quarter of Americans (about 29%) have high blood pressure. This is due to a multitude of reasons, though obesity and poor lifestyles are typically to blame.

Regardless of whether you’ve been diagnosed with hypertension or not, however, you need to know about this new form of hypertension, as it may be happening to you:

White Coat Hypertension

Have you ever gone to the doctor and after having your blood pressure taken, see that it’s higher there than it was when you checked it at home last? Most doctors wave it away and say, “You must be nervous to be here, so your levels spiked a bit.” They also contribute it to short-term stress or caffeine intake.

While you and your doc may think that you blood pressure will lower back down to your normal levels after you leave their office, it turns out this is not always the case – and even if it does, it’s important to track these spikes regardless.

This form of high blood pressure has been dubbed “white coat hypertension” because of you seeing your doctor and your blood pressure increasing. This form of hypertension is much more dangerous than people realize.

What’s the Big Deal?

A spike in blood pressure is never a good thing, even if it’s caused by a perhaps stressful situation, such as going to the doctor’s. A recent study showed that for those who experienced white coat hypertension compared to those who had normal readings both at their appointments and at home, their death risk was twice as high.

If being at the doctor’s is stressful enough to raise your blood pressure, surely other stressors in life are enough to raise it, too – meaning your levels may be fluctuating constantly.

Home Readings Prove Truer

The above-mentioned study observed 64,000 participants over a span of 5 years. After comparing patients who relied on their blood pressure readings at the doctor’s office to those who regularly monitored their levels at home, they found the latter group on average lived longer, healthier lives.

Taking your own readings at home can be a great way to learn about what habits spike your levels. For example, does eating a giant plate of lo mein make it go up? Maybe you should eat half of that portion, or go easy on the soy sauce. Or, does going for a run make it increase, even if it’s been hours since your jog? This is something to monitor and perhaps go see a cardiologist about.

Not monitoring your levels yourself would let you continue to do potentially dangerous things to your blood vessels without you even realizing, which can cause health issues for you sooner than you think.

How to Take Your Blood Pressure at Home

If you’re worried that taking your own blood pressure at home is too difficult to do, put your fears aside. A home monitor is a simple and accurate way to get your readings.

Keep in mind that a “normal” blood pressure is 120/80. From there to 130/80, it is considered elevated, and past that point, it is considered high blood pressure (Stage I first, and then Stage 2 being the worst).

When using your home monitor, be sure to:

  • Avoid exercising, drinking caffeine or smoking at least half an hour before taking your blood pressure. Use the restroom and then sit calmly for a few minutes, then take your reading.
  • Sit still on a harder seat such as a dining room chair, not on a soft surface like a couch. Do not cross your legs and lay your arm flat on a table next to you.
  • Place the cuff on your bare arm (not on clothing), ensuring it fits correctly and that the bottom of the cuff sits right above your elbow. Place the cuff in this same position every time you take a reading.
  • Take two to three readings, and write them all down. This is especially important if your readings are high.

Talk to your doctor as soon as possible about any anomalies you notice.

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