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High Blood Pressure

White coat effect



I am 23 years old. I`ve had my blood pressure measured only once by a physician but multiple times before donating blood. Everytime I have had my blood pressure measured it has been high, usually 150/100.

The physician I saw attributed it to the white coat effect. It`s true that I feel nervous having my blood pressure taken and I feel my heart rate increase. My question is - how much can blood pressure be elevated due to the white coat effect?


Hello and thank you for your inquiry.  Your question is a very good question, and a common concern for many patients.  Your experience which has been attributable to "White Coat" Hypertension is not unique, especially in the setting of donating blood.  There are not many people myself included who do not cringe at the thought of having their person violated by needles. 

Just the thought alone via its perceived and very real stress is enough to acutely elevate one's blood pressure.  If in fact the only time you experience high blood pressure is during these episodes, then the answer is relatively straight forward (i.e. donating blood can cause your pressure to be acutely elevated due to stress).  If on the other hand, you have recorded pressures greater than 140/90 mmHg in other less stressful settings, then you should have this followed up, and maybe check your blood pressure in less stressful situations (e.g. home) after being seated for at least 5 minutes. 

I do not have access to your health file, risk factors, or family history, but as you are a relatively young individual, it would be unusual although not impossible for you to have true hypertension.  In any event, it is always a good idea to have a general health screening to check your risk, blood pressure and other health parameters so that you have an established baseline from which to proceed.

Thanks again for your question, and I hope I have helped to ease some of your concerns.

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Response by:

Kaine C Onwuzulike, MD, PhD Kaine C Onwuzulike, MD, PhD
Resident of Nuerological Surgery
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University