Is ‘White Coat Syndrome’ Dangerous?

The short answer from a cardiologist
physician working on iPad in office

Q: My blood pressure is normal at home but spikes when I’m at the doctor’s office. Is this normal?

A: People often ask whether so-called white coat syndrome is anything to be worried about. This is a phenomenon where people have a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading when they are at their healthcare provider’s office, while their blood pressure is normal outside of a healthcare setting.

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While this pattern was once thought to be relatively benign, it actually is not. Most people whose blood pressure rises in the presence of a healthcare provider experience higher blood pressure under other forms of stress, too. Studies have found that people with this condition have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke than people whose blood pressure is normal when they visit their provider.

These patients need to be followed more closely and ensure that out-of-office blood pressure monitoring is performed on a semi-regular basis. Out-of-office monitoring will ensure that home blood pressures remain low and patients do not transition to elevated blood pressures at home and in the healthcare setting.

Preventive cardiologist Luke Laffin, MD

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To hear more from Dr. Laffin on hypertension, listen to the Health Essentials Podcast episode “Combating High Blood Pressure.” New episodes of the Health Essentials Podcast publish every Wednesday.

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