No special preparations are necessary to have your blood pressure checked. You might want to wear a short-sleeved shirt to your appointment so that the blood pressure cuff can fit around your arm properly.
Because some medications — such as over-the-counter cold medicines, antidepressants, birth control pills and others — can affect your blood pressure, it's a good idea to bring a list of any 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
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet for a blood test.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to low blood pressure.
- Write down key personal information, including a family history of low blood pressure and any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, as well as any 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 low blood pressure, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- What are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- What's the best treatment?
- What foods should I eat or avoid?
- What's an appropriate level of physical activity for me?
- How often should I be screened for low blood pressure?
- 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 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:
May. 19, 2011
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your symptoms?
- Have you been diagnosed with any other health conditions?
- What medications are you currently taking?
- What is your typical daily diet?
- How much exercise do you get in an average week?
- Do you have a family history of heart disease?
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- Low blood pressure. American Heart Association. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3034848. Accessed Feb. 14, 2011.
- Kaufmann H, et al. Mechanisms, causes, and evaluation of orthostatic and postprandial hypotension. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Feb. 14, 2011.
- Farrell TW. Orthostatic hypotension. In: Ferri FF. Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2011: Instant Diagnosis and Treatment. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2011. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?sid=1117880449&eid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..00024-X--s29185&isbn=978-0-323-05610-6&type=bookPage§ionEid=4-u1.0-B978-0-323-05610-6..00024-X--s29185&uniqId=235487260-4. Accessed Feb. 14, 2011.
- African-Americans with high blood pressure need treatment sooner, more aggressively, according to international medical group. American Heart Association. http://www.newsroom.heart.org/index.php?s=43&item=1128. Accessed Feb. 14, 2011.
- Kolodony L. Erectile dysfunction. In: Bope ET, et al. Conn's Current Therapy 2010. 61st ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2009. http://www.mdconsult.com/books/page.do?sid=1117886112&eid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-0986-5..00004-1--sc0065&isbn=978-1-4377-0986-5&type=bookPage§ionEid=4-u1.0-B978-1-4377-0986-5..00004-1--s1015&uniqId=235487260-8. Accessed Feb. 14, 2011.
- Low PA (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Feb. 16, 2011.
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