Sporadic Spikes in Blood Pressure Hike Chances of Hypertension

MONDAY June 29, 2009 -- Occasional hikes in blood pressure that can happen in a doctor's office, or elsewhere in everyday life, can raise the risk for more sustained high blood pressure, a new study finds.

Researchers looked at so-called "white-coat" hypertension as well as "masked" hypertension. In white-coat hypertension, a patient's blood pressure is high while in the doctor's office but is otherwise normal. In masked hypertension, a patient's blood pressure is normal when checked by health-care workers, but sporadically high in everyday life.

This Italian study of more than 1,400 people aged 25-74, found that almost 43 percent of those with white-coat hypertension, about 47 percent of those with masked hypertension, and just over 18 percent of those with normal blood pressure in all settings had sustained high blood pressure 10 years later.

"After adjusting for age and gender, we found that compared to those who were normotensive at the start of the study, the risk of developing sustained hypertension was 2.51 times higher in patients with white-coat hypertension and 1.78 times higher in those with masked hypertension," study author Dr. Giuseppe Mancia, chairman of the department of medicine at University Milan-Bicocca, S. Gerardo Hospital, Monza, said in a news release.

The potential threat posed by white-coat and masked hypertension has long been the subject of debate by doctors.

"Earlier studies, all with shorter follow-up than this one, have been inconclusive," Mancia said. "This study is the first demonstration that white-coat hypertension and masked hypertension result in greater long-term risk of developing sustained hypertension, a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. This means that these conditions are by no means clinically innocent, as they have often thought to be."

The study, published online June 29 in Hypertension, supports the usefulness of home-based blood pressure monitoring, he said.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers tips to lower high blood pressure.

Posted: June 2009


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