What Is White Coat Hypertension?
Hypertension is defined as "abnormally high blood pressure" and it can have serious repercussions. We doctors traditionally wear white lab coats. Put those two pieces of information together, and you can probably figure out what white coat hypertension is. It is also referred to as white coat syndrome. It simply means that some people get a little nervous in a hospital or health care provider setting.
This can lead to higher than normal blood pressure levels. They become anxious and excited in the presence of a doctor, nurse or caregiver at a hospital or doctor's office. This excitement gets their heart beating faster. That means their heart rate goes up, which in turn raises their blood pressure. This is similar to the anxiety many people experience when they think about their next trip to the dentist.
Is White Coat Hypertension a Serious Problem?
Anytime your heart beats at an abnormal level and your blood pressure is high, that's not a good thing. When you think about it, it makes absolute sense. Your mind fills with thoughts of the horrible conditions your doctor is going to discover, so your blood pressure spikes. The doctor checks, and sure enough... you have high blood pressure. What the doctor doesn't know is whether this is an accurate reading in your case.
It may seem that this artificially heightened reading is not a real problem. We used to think it wasn't. However, in recent years we have begun to notice a direct correlation between white coat hypertension and the development of chronic hypertension over time. Even short-term, occasional or temporary increases in your blood pressure can sometimes develop into a serious problem in the future with negative effects on your body and brain.
What To Do If Doctors and Hospitals Make You Nervous
If the idea of going to the hospital gets you excited, or you are anxious and nervous when you see your doctor, you have to share that information. The more you tell your doctor or caregiver about what is going on in your mind and body, the better treatment he or she can deliver.
So make sure you inform your doctor if you believe your high blood pressure readings are related to the mental stress of being in a clinical or medical setting. This could very well keep your physician from prescribing some medication or course of action that you may not need, saving your body, mind and bank account unnecessary problems.