Health & Wellness

White Coat Hypertension May Be Risky

High blood pressure readings are a red flag

By Wendy Haaf

Blood pressure that measures high at the doctor’s office but not at home—a.k.a. white coat hypertension—may be just as risky as persistently high blood pressure. That’s what Spanish scientists found after examining blood pressure data on 64,000 adults and then checking records to see which participants had later died.

White coat hypertension (named for the traditional white doctor’s coat) occurs when a patient’s anxiety in the doctor’s office results in high blood pressures readings. According to results published in The New England Journal of Medicine, researchers found that 3,808 of the 64,000 whose records they examined had died during a median follow-up of 4.7 years, 1,295 of them due to cardiovascular problems. The number of deaths among subjects whose blood pressure had measured high only during clinic visits and among those with sustained high blood pressure was nearly equal: in both groups, the incidence of death before this follow-up was approximately double that of participants whose blood pressure readings were normal both at home and in the doctor’s office.

Photo: iStock/AndSim.