Blood pressure naturally rises and falls throughout the day. Your blood pressure at any one time will depend on what you are doing, how you are feeling and what it is going on around you. When you are sitting down, calm and relaxed your blood pressure will be lower than when you are running about, feeling stressed etc.
When we visit the doctor/hospital many of us feel anxious and tense in the medical environment. It is hard to say why, we just do! I do and I don’t know why! Anyway this anxiety and stress we feel makes our blood pressure go up and when the blood pressure is then measured it appears artificially high and makes it is very difficult for the doctor to get an accurate reading, and can lead to a misdiagnosis of high blood pressure.
The term white coat hypertension is usually used if your blood pressure is above 140/90mmHg at the doctors but you have normal healthy blood pressure when readings are taken at home.
Note: The name white coat hypertension was coined in reference to the white coats traditionally worn by doctors.
I would take this a step further though - many people with high blood pressure (myself included) are recommended to buy a validated home blood pressure monitor to keep an eye on their blood pressure at home over the weeks and months. The problem I had was when I started off taking my blood pressure at home it was high and this in-itself made me anxious so then I would take my blood pressure again later and because I was anxious about the earlier high reading, this reading was even higher... Long story short, this became a vicious circle and I realised that I was now experiencing a similar phenomenon to white coat hypertension, but at home. I was anxious about the high readings and this anxiety became associated with the act of taking my blood pressure. As soon as I would put the cuff on I would feel very tense and anxious and my blood pressure would skyrocket.
In England health guidelines now recommend that everyone with high blood pressure readings at the doctors should have 24 hour blood pressure monitoring to avoid misdiagnosis of high blood pressure due to white coat hypertension.
I have my blood pressure measured this way once a year. I go to the doctors and I am fitted with a 24 hour automatic blood pressure monitor. This monitor takes random readings over a 24 hour period and gives a far more accurate measurement of blood pressure.
If you feel anxious when having your blood pressure taken, discuss this with your doctor and ask about trying a 24 hour blood pressure monitor.
In summary then, white coat hypertension is caused when blood pressure readings are inaccurate due to an increase in blood pressure due to the stress and anxiety of being at the doctors and having your blood pressure measured.
High Blood Pressure Causes 62% of all Strokes and 49% of all Heart Attacks... Check your BP on the blood pressure chart. If the chart shows you are in the prehypertension or hypertension ranges, do something about it, even if it is just having a chat with your doctor. The blood pressure chart is for all adults regardless of age, as whilst your age rises, the thresholds for prehypertension and hypertension don't! (there is no blood pressure chart by age!) No matter what your age - if your BP is above 140/90 you should set about lowering it. You can record and monitor your readings on our printable blood pressure log.