What is white coat syndrome? 4

Do you have high blood pressure at the doctors yet normal at home?

You may suffer from white coat syndrome.

A true story

I went to my doctor and was told I suffered hypertension. My blood pressure was 140/90. I was told I needed a lot of medical checks – weekly blood pressure readings, blood tests to check for cholesterol, thyroid problems etc, and urine tests, I guess to check for protein (which are normally not present in urine, but can be under extremes of pressure).

For my first weekly blood pressure check, I turned up on time for my appointment only to learn that she had gone off for lunch. Now, I am a patient man (no pun intended), but was not going to wait for her to return. I decided to go to the Pharmacy to get my blood pressure checked.

To my disappointment, my blood pressure was 140/100. The pharmacist asked if I was on medication. I was not, and did not want to be. I went home and did some research on the internet. I learnt about a phenomenon called white coat syndrome which made a lot of sense to me. The mere act of going to a doctor (white coat) made you nervous and increased blood pressure.

Well, the recommendation on the internet was to get a home blood pressure monitor. I bought one which had a cuff that went around the wrist, but found it inaccurate after checking at the pharmacy, so bought one that used an upper arm cuff. After getting it checked for accuracy at my doctors, I started taking my blood pressure at home on a daily basis.

To my amazement, my blood pressure during a typical day ranged from 130/90 to 110/65.

Certainly my blood pressure was not always high, and very rarely as high as it always seemed at the doctors office.

I now had it in my power to change my diet and monitor my blood pressure changes.

Giving up smoking cigars had a dramatic effect on my blood pressure. In addition, increased water intake to 3 litres or more a day, and decreased caffeine to 1 cup of coffee a day (I drank decaffeinated after this first one). Today, my blood pressure averages about 124/78. That's normal.

Conclusions about white coat syndrome

Certainly my blood pressure at the doctors office was always higher than when measured at home. I have no doubt that white coat syndrome is a very real problem, and one I myself suffer from. I highly recommend you buy a home blood pressure monitor and check your blood pressure at home. Some doctors recommend this as a way of knowing your true blood pressure. Plus you can check what effects your lifestyle have on your blood pressure. This is the only way I have found to find an accurate measure of my blood pressure, while avoiding the elevating effects of white coat syndrome.

There is a suggestion that if you suffer white coat syndrome, it may indicate that your hypertension is linked with stress. Going to see the doctor stresses you and your blood pressure increases. If this is true, then just because white coat syndrome is responsible for your elevated blood pressure, it does not mean you are fine. You should continue checking your blood pressure at home, and also try to reduce stress levels in your daily life. Relaxation and meditation on a daily basis can help with this.

If you found this article about white coat syndrome interesting, you may be interested in learning more about diet changes that can help reduce your blood pressure.

About Andy

Andy writes for a number of health related sites but has always been fascinated by alternative medicine and home remedies. His deep interests in nature and the body's innate ability to heal itself (given the right condition) have lead him to a pivotal time in his life - and so, Holistic Home Fitness was born. While it's relatively new at the moment, Andy wants to build this site into a huge reference site for a more holistic approach to health and fitness.

4 thoughts on “What is white coat syndrome?

  • Durnford-Slater

    My doctor does not believe in home monitoring as he does not believe that I give a true report. He is convinced that I have continuous hypertension and does not realize that I need to overcome my phobia of having my blood pressure checked by doing it regularly at home. I have been given calcium channel blockers which made my legs swell up alarmingly. I was then given a diurectic which led to my collapsing twice on holiday because of a sudden drop in blood pressure. The latest thing is that he wants me to try ace-inhibitors which can lead to those same problems and cause muscle cramps which I have already.. The one thing that has really helped is using Respirate. Incidentally I have given up all alcohol, salt, caffeine and fatty food. I also walk for about 60 mins every day and eat lots of fruit and vegetables. My parents died at 97 and 93 and did nothave heart problems.

    What can I do apart from changing my doctor?

    • Andy Post author

      I think one of the things you need to think about is that if going to have blood pressure can raise your pressure (it does mine as well), then what else in your daily life can cause that rise? White Coat Syndrome is a real effect, but it may be that it is just showing the results of stress on your body. If you lead a stressful life, then it may not just be at times of blood pressure readings that your pressure is a problem.

  • sarah e

    Well, I am 23 years old and have never had a problem with high blood pressure or pulse. I even just had a baby, and they monitored my bp all the time. Times are hard, and I decided to start donating plasma for extra money. Before you are able to donate they check your bp and pulse first time no problem. Second time they said I was just barely too high to donate. Now after being turned away, when I walk in knowing my numbers are being tested I can feel my bp and pulse rising. Being concerned that I have high bp, I asked a friend who is a CNA to check my bp before I went in. Four times she checked it before I went in to donate and it was normal, and four times I got turned away! Is there anything that I can do to get over this?! I know I’m just freaking myself out now, but is there any meditating or matras to repeat to get me to just calm down! Anything?

  • Stan Schurman

    Contrary to Dunford-Slater’s doctor, my doctor encourages me to take home readings and believes they are more indicative of my true BP than the office readings.

    I’m surprised that Andy’s doctor ordered so many tests. 140/90 is at the lower end of mild hypertension (or the upper end of pre-hypertension). The cusp of the two in other words. Best to determine a cause if at all possible I guess, but his doctor`s aversion to home monitoring sounds a bit strange. I believe that most doctors encourage it. Also, pharmacy BP monitors aren`t noted for their accuracy. People usually just walk in, sit down and take the reading with little or no rest.

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