We hear an awful lot about the dangers of high blood pressure or hypertension.
Low blood pressure isn’t something we pay as much attention to … but we should.
Low blood pressure, or hypotension, comes with its own set of troublesome symptoms. And, just like high blood pressure, it may also be a signal of other things going wrong in the body.
Here’s everything you need to know about the causes, symptoms and treatment of hypotension.
What causes low blood pressure?
There can be several reasons behind low blood pressure. Some of them serious and others, not so much.
Widening of blood vessels (vasodilation) is one possible cause and can result from a problem with medication dosage or a few other issues.
Just as high blood pressure is a result of constricted blood vessels that offer less room for blood to move around, low blood pressure can result from the widening of blood vessels.
Normal healthy blood vessels constrict and open wide to “push” blood through the body. So, vasodilation is a good thing. There’s more room for blood to spread out, so blood exerts less pressure on the vessel walls.
Medication taken for hypertension can cause vasodilation. But if the dosage is wrong it may work too well.
This is why if you’re on medication, it’s important to work with your doctor to monitor how it’s affecting you, and to never take more medication than you’ve been prescribed.
Other things that cause more vasodilation than is warranted include nerve damage from a spinal injury, serious bacterial infections, and Addison’s disease, which weakens the adrenal glands.
Less blood. If you’re not drinking enough, or if you have anemia, you could have low blood pressure. Adequate hydration can take blood volume back up. Anemia should be treated based on its cause.
Diuretics are medications commonly taken to reduce swelling and high blood pressure. If your dose is off, they will work a little too well and result in dehydration and hypotension.
Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Many people don’t realize that thyroid hormones have an effect on the force and speed of your heartbeat and blood pressure. This condition can slow the rate and cause both higher blood pressure and low blood pressure.
Hypothyroidism can be especially hard to diagnose. I’ve written previously about why thyroid tests sometimes miss the mark.
Orthostatic hypotension. Older adults are more prone to feeling lightheaded and dizzy when they stand too quickly. They’re more likely to have a lower volume of blood in the body. It takes longer to get more blood to the head to replace the blood needed in the lower body for standing. Even mild dehydration can make this effect more pronounced.
Heart problems. If your heart isn’t pumping quickly enough, your blood pressure could be reduced. This could signal other conditions that need to be taken care of, such as hormonal problems, valve damage or misfiring electrical signals. Your doctor would need to perform tests and diagnostics to check out these possible causes.
How do I know if my blood pressure is low?
If your blood pressure reading is lower than 90 over 60, your doctor will likely tell you that you’ve got hypotension.
But more often, it’s the symptoms of low blood pressure that are the first clue.
You may feel dizzy and nauseous. You’ll experience a lack of energy, possibly a feeling of depression, and you’ll find it hard to think straight (better known as “brain fog”).
Other possible symptoms include blurry vision, clammy skin, rapid breathing and chest pain.
What to do about low blood pressure
Clearly, if you are having any of the symptoms mentioned above, you’d want to head straight to your doctor to make sure nothing is seriously wrong.
If you’re on medication, he may need to double-check to dosage and also decide if further tests are needed depending on your medical history, including checking for anemia, a B12 deficiency and checking for heart problems.
But there are some of us who just have low blood pressure, and I’m one of them.
These are tips I follow that have been shown to help low blood pressure:
- Salt is known to raise blood pressure. Check with doctor to see if he thinks adding extra to your diet could help.
- Unless your fluid intake is restricted for a health reason, try drinking more water. It can help push your blood volume up which, in turn, raises blood pressure
- Alcoholic drinks are dehydrating. Avoid them or drastically cut down.
- If your pressure drops after eating, eat several smaller, low-carb meals throughout the day instead of the big three.
- Try compression socks to improve your circulation.
Visual Guide to Low Blood Pressure — Web MD
10 Essential Facts About Orthostatic Hypotension — Everyday Health
Everything You Need to Know About Low Blood Pressure — Healthline
12 signs and symptoms of hypothyroidism–Medical News Today