What is white coat syndrome?
Some people find that their blood pressure is normal at home, but rises slightly when they’re at the doctor. This is known as white coat syndrome, or the white coat effect. The syndrome gets its name from doctors and medical staff who sometimes wear white coats in a professional setting.
A healthy blood pressure reading is around 120/80 mm Hg. Anything above this is considered high blood pressure.
White coat syndrome may make your blood pressure read higher than it normally is, and the effect isn’t always a minor issue of doctor-associated anxiety. For some people, white coat syndrome could be a sign of a more serious blood pressure condition.
It’s not uncommon for people to experience a bit of anxiety when they visit a medical office. This increased anxiety can ratchet up your blood pressure numbers.
White coat hypertension causes temporary increases in your blood pressure. While it might not seem serious if it occurs only occasionally, some doctors believe white coat hypertension could be a forerunner of real hypertension. In fact, one study found that people with white coat hypertension had an increased risk of:
- heart attack
- heart failure
- other cardiovascular conditions
Overcoming white coat syndrome
Knowing that your blood pressure might climb higher in your doctor’s office may actually become a self-fulfilling prophecy for some. In other words, the worry that you’ll have a high blood pressure reading may actually cause just enough anxiety to boost your blood pressure.
Before you strap on the blood pressure cuff, keep these tips in mind for a normal reading:
If you’re feeling anxious or worried when you sit down to have your blood pressure measured, ask the doctor or nurse to wait a bit so you can calm down.
Move to a different area
Sometimes the triage areas of doctor’s offices are crowded with people and office staff. Ask if you can move to a quiet area away from everyone else so you can get a more accurate measurement.
Practice stress relief
Find a technique that helps you calm down when you’re anxious or stressed. For example, breathe deeply and exhale slowly. Try a few of these breaths before your blood pressure reading. Reciting a poem or verse in your mind may help you relax, too.
Change the conversation
Talking while having your blood pressure taken can help distract you from the test and improve your reading. For others, however, sitting quietly without talking may be more relaxing. Try different methods to see which works for you.
We will take several readings of your blood pressure to ensure an accurate recording.
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