Have you heard of “white coat syndrome?”
It’s when your blood pressure spikes up to 30% simply because you’re seeing your doctor…
And it’s much more likely to happen to women and seniors.
High blood pressure is a serious condition. It’s potentially deadly… which means it’s important to diagnose it properly. If you have it, it’s not something you can ignore.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. High blood pressure means the pressure in your arteries is higher than it should be.
The increased pressure can damage the lining of your arteries’ walls. This can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It can triple your risk of a heart attack. And it can spike your risk of stroke sevenfold.
Doctors like to call high blood pressure “the silent killer.” And if you have it, you need to get it under control.
But here’s the thing…
Not everyone who is diagnosed with hypertension actually has it.
A study by researchers at the University of Montreal Hospital Centre found that more than half of family doctors are still using outdated manual cuffs to measure blood pressure, which often leads to misdiagnosis.1
That means up to 20% of patients may be misdiagnosed with hypertension — and are taking dangerous medications for a disease they don’t have.
And these drugs are no joke.
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, there are four different types of drugs your doctor might prescribe:
- Diuretics are simple water pills. They remove water from your bloodstream. They can cause weakness, dizziness, muscle cramps, impotence, gouty arthritis, diarrhea, joint pain and more.
- Calcium channel blockers cause your arteries to relax and dilate. This reduces blood pressure and improves circulation. At the same time, it slows the heart rate.
Studies show that people taking calcium channel blockers have a 60% increase in heart attack compared to people who used other blood pressure meds.2 Other side effects include headache, flushing, constipation, nausea, high cholesterol, edema, and low blood pressure.
- ACE inhibitors are supposed to cause blood pressure to fall, and the amount of blood pumped by the heart to increase.
These drugs are linked to severe reactions including atrial fibrillation, kidney failure and death.3
- Beta blockers bind to receptors in the heart and blood vessels. They block their response to norepinephrine, a hormone that tells the arteries to tighten and the heart to speed up.
These drugs lower blood pressure by slowing the heart and relaxing the blood vessels. But side effects include fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, nausea, depression, and loss of libido.
Worse yet, they can raise triglyceride levels, lower HDL cholesterol and cause heart palpitations.
I try to find real solutions for my patients to maintain steady blood pressure for life. It starts by getting the right readings…
Don’t make these blood pressure reading mistakes
There is a right way and a wrong way to take blood pressure. Here’s how it should work:
- Don’t eat prior to your reading. Also, avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
- Be sure to empty your bladder. A full bladder adds 10 to 15 points.
- Sit quietly for at least 10 minutes prior to taking the reading. Thirty minutes is better.
- Uncross your legs and keep both feet on the floor. Position your arm so that it’s supported and the measurement cuff is level with your heart.
- Roll up your sleeve. Placing the cuff over your clothes can add 5 to 50 points. Make sure the cuff is one inch above the fold of your elbow.
- Avoid talking while the reading’s being taken.
Next time you’re getting your reading, try to relax and take a deep breath. Because just one high reading can be enough to land you on a lifetime of dangerous medication.
To Your Good Health,
Al Sears, MD, CNS
1. Kaczorowski J, et al. “How do family physicians measure blood pressure in routine clinical practice?” Can Fam Physician. 2017; 63 (3):e193-e199.
2. O’Brien E., et al. “Use and interpretation of ambulatory blood pressure monitoring: Recommendations of the British hypertension society.” BMJ. 2000;320(7242):1128–1134.
3. Verdecchia P, et al. “Independent predictors of isolated clinic (‘white-coat’) hypertension.” J Hypertens. 2001;19:1015–1020.