‘White coat’ impact on blood pressure confuses heart disease diagnostics

According to a landmark study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) some patients with high blood pressure will see their pressure levels climb even higher, if a doctor is taking the measurements. In a way, this is a direct example of how anxiety or stress impacts on the cardiovascular system.

High blood pressure affects about 40% of adults in the UK and is a major risk factor for heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease and stroke. It was already known that some patients getting their blood pressure levels checked by a doctor can suffer what’s known as the ‘white coat’ effect – their blood pressure levels increase due to nerves or stress at being in a clinical setting.

The study involving 8,575 patients has shown that the ‘white coat’ effect is more dramatic in patients with very high blood pressure - their blood pressure levels can rise by as much as 29 units if a doctor checks it, compared with a rise of 17 units if a nurse is taking the measurement.

The point is that finding an accurate indicator of cardiovascular or heart disease has traditionally been difficult. The best diagnostic tests remain in the hands of the experts and require sophisticated instrumentation such as Dual-Source Infinity CT and Cardiac Specialists such as Professor Avijit Lahiri.

A fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid. Full medical glossary
The pressure of blood within the arteries. Full medical glossary
The body system consisting of the heart and blood vessels. Full medical glossary
The abbreviation for computed tomography, a scan that generates a series of cross-sectional x-ray images Full medical glossary
The death of a section of heart muscle caused by an interruption in its blood supply. Also called a myocardial infarction. Full medical glossary
Failure of the heart to pump adequately. Full medical glossary
One of two bean-shaped organs that are located on either side of the body, below the ribcage. The main role of the kidneys is to filter out waste products from the blood. Full medical glossary
Bundle of fibres that carries information in the form of electrical impulses. Full medical glossary
Bundles of fibres that carry information in the form of electrical impulses. Full medical glossary
Relating to injury or concern. Full medical glossary
Any sudden neurological problem caused by a bleed or a clot in a blood vessel. Full medical glossary
Relating to blood vessels. Full medical glossary