White coat syndrome could bring on high blood pressure readings

Thu, 31 Mar 2011
Recent findings from a study in Spain showed that up to a third of patients may suffer from what has been termed 'white coat syndrome'. The term has been coined to describe people who register high blood pressure readings as a result of the stress in having their blood pressure measured by a health professional.

A standard blood pressure reading involves a patient having a blood pressure measuring sleeve placed around their arm, which is inflated to a particular pressure and then the pressure of the sleeve released. The sleeve is then able to measure the person's blood pressure at the particular moment of time, a few seconds, when the sleeve is fully inflated.

The study looked at 70,000 patients who been previously diagnosed with hypertension (high blood pressure). 8,000 of these patients were recorded as having 'resistant hypertension' whereby a patient's blood pressure does not respond to the blood pressure drugs they are taking. However, when these same patients were monitored for blood pressure over 24 hours, as much as 37 per cent of the patients were found to have lower blood pressure than previously recorded via the one off (non-24 hour) blood pressure tests .

Ellen Mason of British Heart Foundation commented on the study, to say, "Visiting the doctor seemed to make some people falsely appear resistant to the effects of these drugs so the study was helpful in trying to identify which people seemed to be truly resistant and therefore more at risk of organ damage ."
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