Blood pressure readings: Why higher at home?

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Blood pressure readings: Why higher at home?

Question

My blood pressure measurements at home are always higher than at my doctor's office. Am I doing something wrong?

No name given
South Carolina

Answer

Blood pressure measurements that are higher at your home than at your doctor's office could be caused by a decrease in stress at your doctor's office, or an error in measuring your blood pressure at home.

The opposite, higher blood pressure at your doctor's office than at your home, is often called white-coat hypertension. This means that the stress or anxiety of being in your doctor's office causes your blood pressure to be higher than it normally is at home, where you feel at ease.

Having lower blood pressure measurements at the doctor's office than at home is called masked hypertension. Masked hypertension can occur if a calm, quiet environment at your doctor's office is less stressful than the environment at home — leading to a lower blood pressure reading at the doctor's office. Likewise, use of alcohol, caffeine or cigarettes at home can increase blood pressure.

Be sure that your home blood pressure monitor is accurate and that you're using correct technique. If you're not sure, ask your doctor. He or she may ask you to bring the home blood pressure monitor to the office. You may measure your blood pressure in one arm with the home monitor while your doctor measures your blood pressure in the other arm with the office equipment.

Still, some people consistently get different blood pressure readings outside the doctor's office — even when blood pressure is measured correctly and repeatedly. If your home blood pressure readings are accurate and consistently higher than those at your doctor's office, your doctor will likely manage your blood pressure based on the higher readings.

Last Updated: 2010-10-07
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