If your blood pressure reading tends to spike whenever you’re at the doctor’s office, you may be suffering from White Coat Syndrome. Simply put: your blood pressure rises abnormally high because you’re nervous about where you are. Some researchers estimate that as many as 20 percent of American adults experience this phenomenon at one time or another.
If your doctor doesn’t take White Coat Syndrome into consideration, it could result in an incorrect diagnosis and perhaps even unnecessary treatment. So if you suspect your blood pressure measures higher than normal while you’re in a doctor’s office, it is to your benefit to take action.
Here are four tips for overcoming the effects of White Coat Syndrome.
1. Monitor your blood pressure at home. Blood pressure readings taken in just one environment may be misleading. Have your doctor suggest which type of home blood pressure monitor you should use, and ask someone at your doctor’s office explain exactly how and when to use it. Keep a journal of those home readings, and bring it with you to your doctor’s appointment.
2. Ask your doctor what to expect before you arrive at your appointment. If you’re coming into the doctor for tests or a procedure, understanding what’s going to happen – and how it will benefit you – will help to reduce your anxiety. Don’t be shy about asking to speak with a nurse at the time you schedule the appointment.
3. Bring a friend or relative. Sharing the experience with someone supportive can make you feel less alone. Call ahead to ask if someone can stay with you throughout the procedure.
4. Find a doctor you like and trust. Your doctor is your health partner. If you don’t feel ill at ease with this person, ask for referrals from nearby friends or relatives.
What’s new? Some doctors are now using automated blood pressure devices. Their patients sit quietly in a room for five minutes, without the presence of a doctor or healthcare professional, while their blood pressure is read repeatedly. So far, the results are encouraging.