Avoid white coat hypertension with home blood pressure monitoring

A new study published online today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), says white coat hypertension is most likely an innocuous condition that is not a predictor of heart disease or stroke – except in a small group of older patients.

The condition, more commonly known as white coat syndrome, is a phenomenon in which patients exhibit a blood pressure level above the normal range in a clinical setting, though they don’t exhibit it in other settings. On average, when your blood pressure is taken at home the top (systolic) number can be around 10mmHg lower than it would be if taken by a doctor and 5mmHg lower on the bottom (diastolic) number. For some people this difference can be even greater.

Diagnosis is made difficult as a result of the unreliable measures taken from the conventional methods of detection. Many believe that patients with white coat hypertension do not require even very small doses of antihypertensive therapy as it may result in hypotension, but must still be careful as patients may show signs of vascular changes and may eventually develop hypertension.

Essential reading: A round-up of leading smart blood pressure monitors

The JACC study – led by Dr. Stanley Franklin from University of California, Irvine – looked at 653 people with white coat hypertension and 653 with normal blood pressure. All of the study volunteers were followed for more than 10 years. For people younger than 60, there was no difference in the number of new heart problems. However, among 92 people aged 60 and older, there were 18 more new heart problem cases among those with white coat hypertension.

Anyone can be affected by this condition. You may be nervous or anxious about having your blood pressure taken without you or your doctor realising it. The only way to be sure is to compare readings taken in the clinic with readings that are taken at home. There may be lots of gimmicks or unnecessary bits of equipment for your health available today, but smart home monitors for blood pressure are not gimmicks and they are highly useful.

In fact, two recent studies (American Medical Group Foundation’s Measure Up/Pressure Down and Ochsner Health System’s  Hypertension Digital Medicine), support the belief that regular blood pressure measurements help patients control hypertension. Being able to consistently measure and more importantly track blood pressure over time is also of great help in helping to understand how dietary, fitness and other changes are effecting your health.

We spoke to Cedric Hutchings, former CEO of Withings and current VP of Digital Health at Nokia about the study.

“The findings from JACC’s study on white coat hypertension illustrate how patient generated data collected using consumer health devices can play an important role in accurate diagnosis and patient care,” said Hutchings.

“Measuring and monitoring blood pressure frequently from home or outside a clinical setting can provide huge benefits, especially among hypertension patients, including more control over personal health, a deeper understanding of trends, and a richer relationship between doctors and patients.”

Withings was one of the first companies to come out with a connected blood pressure monitor. The second iteration of their device works the same as the initial corded version – but without the cord. The gadget makes it much easier to keep an accurate blood pressure record, which can be shared at the touch of a button with a doctor. We highly recommend this product to anyone who is interested in monitoring their blood pressure on a regular basis.

“Our Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor is as accurate as the one in the doctor’s office, is FDA cleared, and has been validated in several studies,” added Hutchings.

“However, medical devices tend to be reserved for the doctor’s office, and while accurate, these measurements have a higher likelihood of being impacted by white coat syndrome versus consumer devices, which can be used daily and in the comfort of your home.”

The study was published online on October 31st in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

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