Regular visits to your doctor are an important part of keeping your blood pressure under control. But how often is enough?

If you have stage 1 hypertension and are otherwise healthy, plan to see your physician once every month until you reach your blood pressure goal. However, if you have other health problems or stage 2 hypertension, you should visit your doctor more frequently—typically every two to four weeks.

At these visits, your doctor will measure blood pressure, ask about side effects, and discuss the progress you are making with lifestyle measures like diet, exercise and smoking cessation. Based on this information, the doctor may adjust your drug dosages, add another drug, switch a medication if side effects are troublesome and provide further advice on lifestyle changes.

Once your blood pressure has been lowered to your goal level or has stabilized, your doctor visits can usually be reduced to every three to six months, although people with other health conditions (such as diabetes or heart disease) may need to visit their doctor more often.

Your blood levels of sodium, potassium and creatinine should be measured at least once or twice a year to detect any adverse effects from your blood pressure medication and any deterioration in kidney function.

Only about a third of people with hypertension reach the blood pressure goal of less than 140/90 mm Hg. One reason is that some doctors do not treat hypertension aggressively enough. In other cases, people do not take their medication as prescribed or do not adopt the recommended lifestyle changes.

Being motivated to take your blood pressure medication is not always easy. Your hypertension may not be producing any symptoms, yet your doctor is asking you to make lifestyle changes and take medication that may be expensive or cause side effects. Nonetheless, taking your medication as recommended by your doctor is crucial to preventing blood pressure-related complications that could have a devastating effect on your health.

Publication Review By: Lawrence Appel, M.D., and Rafael H. Llinas, M.D.

Published: 16 Jul 2013

Last Modified: 16 Jul 2013