High blood pressure - what to ask your doctor

Also known as: What to ask your doctor about high blood pressure and Hypertension - what to ask your doctor

Definition

When your heart pumps blood into your arteries, the pressure of the blood against the artery walls is called your blood pressure. Your blood pressure is given as two numbers: systolic over diastolic blood pressure. Your systolic blood pressure is the highest blood pressure during the course of your heart beat cycle. Your diastolic blood pressure is the lowest pressure.

When your blood pressure gets too high, it puts extra stress on your heart and blood vessels. If your blood pressure stays high all the time, you will be at a higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, and other health problems.

Below are questions you may want to ask your health care provider to help you take care of your blood pressure.

Questions

How can I change the way I live to lower my blood pressure?

  • What is a heart-healthy diet? Is it ok to ever eat something that is not heart healthy? What are some ways to eat healthy when I go to a restaurant?
  • Do I need to limit how much salt I use? Are there other spices that I can use to make my food taste good?
  • Is it ok to drink alcohol? How much is ok?
  • What can I do to stop smoking? Is it ok to be around other people who are smoking?

Should I check my blood pressure at home?

  • What type of equipment should I buy? Where can I learn how to use it?
  • How often do I need to check my blood pressure? Should I write it down and bring it to my next visit?
  • If I cannot check my own blood pressure, where else can I have it checked?
  • What should my blood pressure reading be?
  • When should I call my provider?

What is my cholesterol? Do I need to take medicines for it?

Is it ok to be sexually active? Is it safe to use sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), or tadalafil (Cialis) for erection problems?

What medicines am I taking to treat high blood pressure?

  • Do they have any side effects? What should I do if I miss a dose?
  • Is it ever safe to stop taking any of these medicines on my own?

How much activity can I do?

  • Do I need to have a stress test before I exercise?
  • Is it safe for me to exercise on my own?
  • Should I exercise inside or outside?
  • Which activities should I start with? Are there activities or exercises that are not safe for me?
  • How long and how hard can I exercise?
  • What are the warning signs that I should stop exercising?

References

James PA, Oparil S, Carter BL, et al. 2014 evidence-based guideline for the management of high blood pressure in adults: report from the panel members appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8). JAMA. 2014;311:507-520. PMID: 24352797 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24352797.

Peterson ED, Gaziano JM, Greenland P. Recommendations for treating hypertension: what are the right goals and purposes? JAMA. 2014;311:474-476. PMID: 24352710 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24352710.

Review date:
August 02, 2015
Reviewed by:
Laura J. Martin, MD, MPH, ABIM Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Hospice and Palliative Medicine, Atlanta, GA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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