At first glance, white coat hypertension — a condition in which a person's blood pressure rises at the doctor's office — may not seem like a big deal. After all, who doesn't get a little more stressed or anxious right before going in for an appointment? But recent research shows that this well-known condition — which may affect up to 30 percent of Americans — might be much more dangerous than people once thought.
The April 2018 report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, concluded that patients who experience white coat hypertension shouldn't simply brush away those doctor-office jitters. In fact, a spike in blood pressure while talking to a physician might mean other smaller stressors could be increasing your readings in your day-to-day life.
"We don't want to dismiss white coat hypertension," said lead author Raymond Townsend, MD, in an interview with NBC News. "We encourage our patients to do blood pressure readings at home. That is a good way to not only monitor blood pressure where you actually 'live,' but it also provides a lot of insight for patients to understand how life's little indiscretions, like take-out Chinese with extra soy sauce, can truly affect your blood pressure the next day."
Researchers who were involved with the study — which included more than 60,000 people over five years — ultimately found that blood pressure measurements taken at home regularly were a stronger predictor of cardiovascular deaths than doctor's office readings. "Life is not void of stressors," said Haitham Ahmed, MD, who was not a part of the study. "That's what life is all about. It's better that you control your blood pressure, so that even when those stressors increase, it's not causing damage to your blood vessels."
Considering that the health guidelines for hypertension were just updated last November — including a change of the old blood pressure standard of 140/90 to 130/80 — this new study is important information to keep in mind the next time you get your blood pressure taken at the doctor's office. If you've been struggling with high blood pressure for a while, or if you're one of the approximately 103 million Americans who could get a new diagnosis for hypertension based on the updated health guidelines, you may want to talk to your health practitioner about whether an at-home blood pressure monitor is right for you.
Next, learn about the biggest health trends that actually aren't healthy for you in the video below:
h/t NBC News