Research has suggested that a number of people who are difficult to treat for high blood pressure could be suffering from nerves.
A rise in blood pressure experienced in patients when they attend surgery appointments is known as “white coat syndrome”.
The results of a study indicate that a third of patients who are unresponsive to drugs that reduce high blood pressure, or hypertension, could be affected by the phenomenon.
Almost 70,000 patients suffering from hypertension were involved in the study, with researchers monitoring their blood pressure during day-to-day activities.
Out of 8,000 participants, 37% who had experienced resistance to treatment were discovered to have “white coat syndrome”.
Visits to the surgery made their blood pressure rise, creating the misleading impression that treatments were failing to work.
Researchers asked patients to wear a portable device that takes blood pressure readings every 20 minutes day and night. The procedure is known as “ambulatory blood pressure monitoring”.
Study leader Dr Alejandro de la Sierra, from the University of Barcelona in Spain, said: “Physicians should be encouraged to use ambulatory monitoring to confirm resistant hypertension in their patients as it would ensure the most effective treatment options are used.
“Patients benefit by knowing whether their blood pressure is normal during daily activities or still needs the reinforcement of dietary and drug measures.”
The research, published in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension, showed that more women than men - 42% compared with 34% - were affected by “white coat syndrome”.
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