Background: Blood pressure (BP) measurements obtained in the clinic have long served as the basis for determining risk of hypertensive vascular disease, yet many patients with high BP in the physician's office are normotensive elsewhere. It remains unclear whether such patients with "white coat" hypertension elude the risk of atherosclerosis.
Methods: Community residents 40 to 70 years of age and not receiving any cardiovascular medications were recruited to participate in a study of cardiovascular risk factors. On the basis of clinic and daytime ambulatory BP and a threshold criterion of 140/90 mm Hg, subjects were classified as having persistent hypertension, white-coat hypertension, or persistent normotension. One-to-one matching was conducted in male participants on the basis of race and BP. Subjects with persistent hypertension and white-coat hypertension were matched on clinic BP, and those with white-coat hypertension and normotension were matched on daytime ambulatory BP.
Results: The 3 matched groups of men (n=40 in each group) were similar in age, smoking status, and fasting glucose and lipid levels. Compared with the normotensive subjects, subjects with either persistent or white-coat hypertension had greater mean body mass index, waist-hip ratio, and fasting insulin concentration. On the basis of standardized duplex ultrasound examination of the carotid arteries, mean maximal intimal-medial thickness and plaque index in subjects with white-coat hypertension were greater than among normotensive subjects and equal to that of the subjects with persistent hypertension.
Conclusion: When compared with unmedicated individuals with comparable elevations in clinic BP, individuals with white-coat hypertension appear not to be protected from the atherosclerotic sequelae of hypertension.