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White coat blood pressure

High blood pressure is a big problem, we all should know that now. But the trouble is how can we gain an accurate reading of what our pressure really is?

Anyone who has bought a home blood pressure monitor will find some variations in their blood pressure. For some people, the level goes up and down so much and it can seem impossible to get an overall idea of what your true blood pressure really is.

But on top of normal variations, there is another cause that can result in wild fluctuations of blood pressure.

It is known as white coat hypertension and really it means that because you are concerned or nervous when you are about to have your blood pressure taken, your levels can soar.

The term white coat was coined in reference to the white coats traditionally worn by doctors and some nurses. Just being in a doctor’s surgery can make people tense or worried. Concern that your blood pressure really is too high is another worry; worry too much and your blood pressure will go up ……definitely a catch 22 situation. For some people the white coat effect can have a really dramatic influence and lift your systolic blood pressure by as much as 30mmHg.

On average, if you use a home blood pressure machine, your systolic number (the top number) can be around 10mmHG lower than when taken in a medical situation; while the diastolic number (the lower number ) can be around 5mmHg lower.

So while home monitoring can sometimes offer a more accurate reading that having the measurement done at the doctors or hospital, this again is not always the case. Some people can get really worried even when taking their own blood pressure at home.

Not everyone suffers from this problem; but there is another problem in obtaining an accurate reading. For some, blood pressures really do fluctuate considerably throughout the day. While most of us will find our pressure changes, for some people this change can be so dramatic that when they have their pressure taken at the “wrong” time it can give a very inaccurate idea of the overall situation.

So how can you find an accurate reading of your blood pressure.

The first thing to be aware of is that there is no such thing as an exact measure which will remain the same regardless. Your blood pressure is affected by many different events and situations so it will definitely fluctuate. All you can hope to get is an accurate picture of what your normal blood pressure is within certain parameters.

One way to do this is to regularly measure your blood pressure at home over a certain period. Keeping a personal record of your blood pressure can help to show the pattern of your normal life.

An alternative is 24 hour blood pressure monitoring. This really will give a good picture of what is happening with your blood pressure in normal day to day life. The readings are taken from a small digital monitor that is attached to your belt. This is connected to a cuff wound around your upper arm which will inflate regularly and automatically, usually over a 24 hour period. The machine and cuff are small enough so that you can go about your normal day to day activities, but of course whenever the cuff inflates it can be quite disturbing, especially when you are trying to sleep.

However, a 24 hour monitor can provide accurate measurements of your blood pressure and because you quickly get used to it clicking on and off, this usually means the white coat effect is minimal.

Some doctors surgeries can offer a 24 hour monitor, but normally one has to go to your nearest hospital to obtain one.

If you do suffer from white coat hypertension, this is no reason to put off having your blood pressure taken. It is one of the best diagnostic tools doctors have for a range of major health issues and they are trained to take this into account.

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