INDEPENDENCE, Mo. -- America has an epidemic of high blood pressure, which puts people at risk for heart attacks and strokes. Experts now say the diagnosis of high blood pressure should be confirmed away from the doctor's office rather than in it.
Bob Kelly's blood pressure is up when the cuff goes on his arm in the doctor's office.
"Thirty, forty points on the high end. I usually run about 120 to 130 and it goes up to 160 sometimes," Kelly said.
It's called white coat hypertension.
"There's a lot of people that just by virtue of walking into the doctor's office will get really nervous and their blood pressure will be falsely elevated," said Dr. Todd Fristo with Saint Luke's Medical Group.
It's why the doctor has Kelly check his blood pressure at home occasionally, jot down the numbers and bring them to him.
"Sometimes take it in the morning. Take it in the afternoon and don't do it right after you've done something stressful or right after you've exercised," Dr. Fristo said.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force now says those checks away from the doctor's office are important in diagnosing high blood pressure. The task force recommends measurements outside of the clinical setting for confirmation before starting treatment, so you won't get medicine you don't need or won't be over-medicated.
"They're at higher risk of developing dizziness or wooziness or sometimes when they stand and get up out of a chair, they can fall down and hurt themselves which is not a good thing," Dr. Fristo said.
He added that some people with high numbers only in the doctor's office will go on to develop high blood pressure, so it still needs to be watched. He said pharmacists can provide good advice on the type of cuff to buy for home use.
Dr. Fristo said some patients with high numbers clearly need medicine right away. There's no time for home monitoring first. And some people with borderline numbers can benefit from weight loss and dietary changes and may not need medicine.