High blood pressure is a serious health condition which can lead to heart disease and many other complications. Unfortunately, one billion people in the world currently suffer from high blood pressure. But are some patients receiving an improper diagnosis due to “white-coat hypertension”?
“White-coat hypertension,” is the tendency for patients to become anxious at the doctor’s office, causing blood pressure to be higher than usual.
The problem with this is that the numbers recorded at the office are the numbers doctors typically use to make a diagnosis, so doctors may be giving some people recommendations or medications that may not truly be needed.
The UNC Family Medicine clinic has been conducting this cost-effective study for over two years where we have asked patients to wear a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours. It’s great because it allows for multiple readings over 24 hours and allows us to get a real sense of blood pressure during the day.
As a doctor, you can look at averages during the day and at night, and it helps with making a diagnosis in a more accurate way so that we can determine if medicine is needed, and in what doses.
In Great Britain, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence is actually looking at better ways to monitor blood pressure, and this was actually one of the recommendations, which we think is great. We realize that there are costs to consider, but it’s also much more accurate.
The bottom line here is that if you’re a patient who has elevated blood pressure in the office, you may want to ask your doctor about this sort of study to determine if you truly need to get on medication.