Some people find that their blood pressure is normal at home, but rises slightly when they’re at the doctor.
New research suggests that the spike may not just be a temporary and harmless occurrence but point to more serious issues, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Researchers at the Autonomous University of Madrid followed nearly 64,000 people over five years to examine the association of blood pressure measured in a clinic versus portable 24-hour ambulatory pressure monitoring that gives readings over regular intervals.
Investigators found that people who experienced the white-coat effect had double the chances of dying compared to patients whose blood pressure was normal when taken at the doctor’s office and at home, NBC News reported.
Blood pressure readings have two numbers. Normal blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association, is 120 over 80. The top number is systolic blood pressure — the highest pressure when your heart beats and pushes blood around the body. The bottom one is diastolic blood pressure — the lowest pressure when the heart rests between beats.
“White-coat hypertension was not benign, and masked hypertension was associated with a greater risk of death than sustained hypertension,” researchers concluded.
Haitham Ahmed, medical director of cardiac rehabilitation at Cleveland Clinic, concurred. “If seeing a white coat increases your blood pressure,” he told NBC, “a lot of other stressors in life are expected to as well.”