No special preparations are necessary to have your blood pressure checked. But it's helpful if you wear a short-sleeved shirt or a loosefitting long-sleeved shirt that can be pushed up during your evaluation so that the blood pressure cuff can fit around your arm properly.
Because appointments can be brief and because there's often a lot to discuss, 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, vitamins or supplements that you're taking. 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 medications and supplements that you take to your doctor's appointment. Or, even better, bring the original bottles with you to your appointment. Don't stop taking any prescription medications that you think may affect your blood pressure without your doctor's advice.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to remember 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, especially the amount of salt in your diet. 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 may be limited, so preparing a list of questions may 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's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Could my medications be a factor?
- What are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of tests will I need?
- What's the most appropriate treatment?
- What foods should I eat or avoid?
- What's an appropriate level of physical activity?
- Would losing weight help my condition?
- Should I see a dietitian?
- How often should I be screened for low blood pressure?
- Should I learn to measure my own 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 these conditions together?
- Are there any dietary or activity 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 additional questions during your appointment.
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 13, 2014
- When did you first 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?
- Do you have any known medical problems?
- Are you currently taking medication?
- Do you ever temporarily stop taking your medications because of side effects or because of the expense?
- Have you lost or gained weight recently?
- How is your appetite?
- Orthostatic hypotension. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Health Care Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/cardiovascular_disorders/symptoms_of_cardiovascular_disorders/orthostatic_hypotension.html?qt=orthostatic%20hypotension&alt=sh. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- What is hypotension? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hyp/. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Kaufmann H, et al. Mechanisms, causes, and evaluation of orthostatic hypotension. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Low blood pressure. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Low-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301785_Article.jsp. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Low PA, et al. Management of neurogenic orthostatic hypotension: An update. Lancet Neurology. 2008;7:451.
- What is an electrocardiogram? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/ekg/. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- What is echocardiography? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/echo/. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.
- Kaufmann H, et al. Treatment of orthostatic and postprandial hypotension. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 17, 2014.
- Figueroa JJ, et al. Preventing and treating orthostatic hypotension: As easy as A, B, C. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2010;77:298.
- FDA approves Northera to treat neurogenic orthostatic hypotension. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. http://www.fda.gov/newsevents/newsroom/pressannouncements/ucm386311.htm. Accessed Feb. 24, 2014.