Common causes of masked high blood pressure

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High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often called the “silent killer” because it usually has no noticeable symptoms but can lead to serious health problems like heart disease and stroke.

What makes it even trickier is a condition known as masked hypertension, where blood pressure readings at a doctor’s office are normal, but higher in other settings, such as at home or work.

This article explores what masked hypertension is, its implications for health, and how it can be managed.

Masked hypertension is somewhat the opposite of what’s known as “white coat hypertension,” where individuals have high blood pressure readings in a clinical setting but normal readings at home.

In masked hypertension, the routine blood pressure checks during doctor visits don’t show elevated levels, leading both the patient and the doctor to believe that their blood pressure is under control when it may not be.

Studies estimate that about 15-30% of people thought to have normal blood pressure might actually have masked hypertension, making this a significant public health concern.

The challenge with masked hypertension is its detection; since people don’t see high readings during their doctor visits, they might not be aware they are at risk.

Research has shown that individuals with masked hypertension have a similar risk of developing cardiovascular diseases as those with persistent high blood pressure.

This is concerning because without knowing their true blood pressure levels, people with masked hypertension might not take necessary steps to manage their condition, such as modifying their diet, exercising, or taking prescribed medications.

Several factors contribute to masked hypertension. Stress is a major one. Blood pressure can spike due to stress at work or in other environments outside the doctor’s office.

Additionally, poor sleep quality and lifestyle habits such as smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and irregular physical activity can also lead to elevated blood pressure outside of clinical settings.

The best way to diagnose masked hypertension is through ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM) or home blood pressure monitoring. ABPM involves wearing a blood pressure cuff for 24 hours to measure blood pressure throughout the day and night.

This method provides a comprehensive view of how blood pressure changes over time and in different situations, making it easier to identify masked hypertension.

Once diagnosed, managing masked hypertension involves typical hypertension treatments but also focuses heavily on lifestyle changes.

Regular physical activity, a balanced diet low in salt, moderation in alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and stress management techniques are all crucial. In some cases, medication may be necessary to help control blood pressure more consistently throughout the day.

Awareness and education about masked hypertension are essential. People should be encouraged to monitor their blood pressure in various settings, not just at the doctor’s office.

Those with normal readings at a clinic but who have risk factors for high blood pressure—such as a family history of the disease, obesity, or older age—should consider regular home monitoring to ensure they are not missing masked hypertension.

In conclusion, masked hypertension is a hidden risk that can have serious long-term health consequences if not identified and managed properly.

Regular monitoring at home and being mindful of how lifestyle factors may affect blood pressure can help uncover this hidden condition.

By paying attention to blood pressure outside of the doctor’s office, individuals can take proactive steps to protect their heart health and overall well-being.

If you care about blood pressure, please read studies about unhealthy habits that could increase high blood pressure risk, and people with severe high blood pressure should reduce coffee intake.

For more information about blood pressure, please see recent studies that early time-restricted eating could help improve blood pressure, and results showing plant-based foods could benefit people with high blood pressure.

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