Checking your blood pressure regularly is one of the most important screenings you can get because high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. People with high blood pressure may have a higher risk for heart disease and stroke. That’s why it’s a good idea to see your doctor at least twice a year to make sure your blood pressure is right where it should be, and your treatment plan is working.
A blood pressure reading measures the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Your blood travels through your body to supply oxygen and nutrients to your organs and tissue. But when our blood vessels harden, it can make it harder for your blood to move through them, resulting in high blood pressure.
Your blood pressure reading is made up of two numbers. The systolic reading is the larger number on top. This number measures the force of your blood going from your heart to your arteries. The smaller number is your diastolic reading. This number measures your heart resting between heartbeats. According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. Any blood pressure reading over 139/89 is considered high blood pressure for people with diabetes.
Why You Need to Check Your Blood Pressure
If it’s not caught and treated early, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack and other dangerous health problems. Getting an accurate blood pressure reading when you see the doctor is important to catch problems as early as possible.
High blood pressure can often show no symptoms, particularly in the early stages, and can quietly damage your body for years. Once it has elevated, it can become a serious condition, and if left uncontrolled, can lead to various serious complications such as heart attack, stroke or kidney failure.
How Much Does It Cost?
Getting your blood pressure checked should be part of every doctor’s visit, not just with your primary care doctor, but with specialists, too. It’s no cost to you to have this done. You can also get your blood pressure checked at no cost in most grocery stores, too.
If your doctor prescribes medications to help control your blood pressure, you may have to pay a copay, depending on your Medicare prescription drug plan. Some generic drugs for blood pressure may be available at no extra cost to you.
Make sure to ask your doctor if a generic drug is available. Generic drugs usually cost less than their brand name counterparts. You can use generics with confidence. Although they may look different from their brand name versions, generics are safe and effective. A brand-name drug and its generic version must have the same active ingredient, dosage, safety, strength, usage directions, quality, performance and intended use. Generic drugs work in your body in the same way and in the same amount of time as brand-name drugs.
Depending on your income, you also may qualify for Extra Help from Medicare.
What Should You Expect?
Typically, a nurse will take your blood pressure when you get to the doctor’s office. Stress, physical activity and other factors can increase your blood pressure. If you’re rushed into a room and the nurse takes your blood pressure before you have had time to sit down for a minute, your reading might be too high. If this happens, ask to sit for a minute and catch your breath first. Relax. This can help make sure your reading is accurate. If your blood pressure is still high, ask to be left alone quietly in a room for 45 minutes.
Your nurse will tell you your blood pressure reading as soon as it’s ready. Your doctors will track your blood pressure from visit to visit and will let you know if they see an increase over time.
If your cholesterol is high, your doctor may prescribe a type of medication called statins. If this happens, make sure to start with a 30-day supply of medication. If the medication works after the first month, then ask your doctor for a 90-day prescription. This way you don’t have to go to the drug store as often. You can also choose to get your drugs through mail order.
If you ever have any issues with paying for your medication, talk to your doctor. There are some extremely affordable options when it comes to blood pressure medications.
How Do You Make an Appointment?
If you haven’t had your Annual Wellness Visit yet this year, this is a great time to ask your doctor about any screenings you need and get your blood pressure checked. You can also visit your local grocery store or pharmacy and check your blood pressure at a blood pressure machine.
If you’re a Florida Blue Medicare member, call the number on the back of your member ID card if you need help finding a doctor or making an appointment. You can also log in to your My Health Link™ member account at floridablue.com/medicare.