If you think you may have high blood pressure, make an appointment with your family doctor to have your blood pressure checked.
No special preparations are necessary to have your blood pressure checked. You might want to wear a short-sleeve shirt to your appointment so that the blood pressure cuff can fit around your arm properly. You might want to avoid caffeinated food and drinks right before your test. You should also use the toilet before having your blood pressure measured.
Because some medications — such as over-the-counter cold medicines, antidepressants, birth control pills and others — can raise your blood pressure, it might be a good idea to bring a list of medications and supplements you take to your doctor's appointment. Don't stop taking any prescription medications that you think may affect your blood pressure without your doctor's advice.
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing. High blood pressure seldom has symptoms, but it is a risk factor for heart disease. Letting your doctor know if you have symptoms like chest pains or shortness of breath can help your doctor decide how aggressively your high blood pressure needs to be treated.
- Write down key personal information, including a family history of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, stroke or diabetes, and any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements that you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Be prepared to discuss your diet and exercise habits. If you don't already follow a diet or exercise routine, be ready to talk to your doctor about any challenges you might face in getting started.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Your time with your doctor is limited, so preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time together. List your questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For high blood pressure, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- Do I need any medications?
- What foods should I eat or avoid?
- What's an appropriate level of physical activity?
- How often do I need to schedule appointments to check my blood pressure?
- Should I monitor my blood pressure at home?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing for me?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me?
- What websites do you recommend visiting?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions. Being ready to answer them may reserve time to go over any points you want to spend more time on. Your doctor may ask:
- Do you have a family history of high cholesterol, high blood pressure or heart disease?
- What are your diet and exercise habits like?
- Do you drink alcohol? How many drinks do you have in a week?
- Do you smoke?
- When did you last have your blood pressure checked? What was your blood pressure measurement then?
What you can do in the meantime
It's never too early to make healthy lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods and becoming more physically active. These are primary lines of defense against high blood pressure and its complications, including heart attack and stroke.
Aug. 03, 2012
- Chobanian AV, et al. The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. New England Journal of Medicine. 2003;289:2560.
- Why blood pressure matters. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/WhyBloodPressureMatters/Why-Blood-Pressure-Matters_UCM_002051_Article.jsp. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Aronow WS, et al. ACCF/AHA 2011 expert consensus document on hypertension in the elderly. Journal of the American College of Cardiology. 2011;57:2037.
- Kaplan NM, et al. Treatment of hypertension in blacks. http://www.uptodate.com/home/. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Rosen CJ, et al. The nonskeletal effects of vitamin D: An Endocrine Society scientific statement. Endocrine Reviews. 2012;33:456.
- Kaplan NM, et al. Prehypertension. http://www.uptodate.com/home/. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Calhoun DA, et al. Resistant hypertension: Diagnosis, evaluation and treatment. A scientific statement from the American Heart Association Professional Education Committee of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research. Hypertension. 2008;117:e510.
- Mann JFE. Choice of therapy in essential hypertension: Recommendations. http://www.uptodate.com/home/. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Lopez L, et al. Lifestyle modification counseling for hypertensive patients: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2004. American Journal of Hypertension. 2009;22:325.
- Tseng C, et al. A predictive model for risk of prehypertension and hypertension and expected benefit after population-based life-style modification (KCIS No. 24). American Journal of Hypertension. 2012;25:171.
- Your guide to lowering blood pressure with DASH. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Appel LJ, et al. Dietary approaches to prevent and treat hypertension: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension. 2006;47:296.
- Pandic S, et al. Device-guided breathing exercises in the treatment of hypertension - perceptions and effects. CVD Prevention and Control. 2008;3:163.
- Natural medicines in the clinical management of hypertension. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Home blood pressure monitoring. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/SymptomsDiagnosisMonitoringofHighBloodPressure/Home-Blood-Pressure-Monitoring_UCM_301874_Article.jsp. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for high blood pressure: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force reaffirmation recommendation statement. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2007;147:783.
- Mayo Clinic statement: Aliskiren safety concern. Mayo Pharmaceutical Formulary Committee. http://mayoweb.mayo.edu/mfpfc-cmte/1112aliskirenStatement.pdf. Accessed June 19, 2012.
- Novartis announces termination of ALTITUDE study with Rasilez/Tekturna in high-risk patients with diabetes and renal impairment. Novartis International AG. http://www.novartis.com/downloads/newsroom/rasilez-tekturna-information-center/20111220-rasilez-tekturna.pdf. Accessed June 19, 2012.