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White-Coat Hypertension

"White-coat hypertension" is a condition in which people experience high blood pressure only when they visit the doctor's office. People who experience it have an elevated systolic blood pressure between 140 and 180 mmHg while at the doctor's office and a "normal" blood pressure in other situations. Most healthcare providers agree that no treatment is required.

What Is White-Coat Hypertension?

Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure inside your blood vessels -- both while the heart is beating and while it is relaxed. When the pressure within your blood vessels is too high, high blood pressure results. High blood pressure is also known as hypertension.
 
But some people experience high blood pressure only when they visit the doctor's office. This condition is called "white-coat hypertension." White-coat hypertension is estimated to occur in up to 40 percent of people with prehypertension.
 

Understanding Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the amount of force (pressure) that blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessels as it passes through them. As blood is pumped from the heart into blood vessels, enough pressure is created to send it to all other parts of the body so that cells get the oxygen and nutrients they need.
 
Blood pressure changes frequently throughout the day. Things that can make blood pressure change within a few minutes include:
 
  • Posture
  • Level of exercise
  • Amount of tension
  • Nicotine use.
 
It's easy to see why a person's blood pressure usually goes up and down within a certain range every day. Because of this, it's best to use more than one blood pressure reading to figure out your average blood pressure.
 
Blood pressure can also run high or low in families. When comparing your blood pressure to what's considered "normal," it's important to look at your:
 
  • Overall health
  • Lifestyle
  • Diet
  • Family history.
     
These factors may cause you to have a higher or lower blood pressure than what's considered normal.
 
To find your average blood pressure reading, you will need to have your blood pressure taken two or more times, and each reading should be from a different day. Anything under 120/80 is considered normal blood pressure. For average blood pressure readings between 120/80 and 139/89, healthcare professionals consider this "prehypertension." If the average of your blood pressure readings is more than 140 over 90, then you have high blood pressure.
 
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