Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, is a condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is lower than normal. Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries as it is pumped by the heart. The normal range for blood pressure is generally considered to be between 90/60 mm Hg and 120/80 mm Hg. Blood pressure that is consistently lower than 90/60 mm Hg is considered to be low.
Symptoms of low blood pressure
Symptoms of low blood pressure (hypotension) can vary depending on the severity of the condition and the underlying cause. Some common symptoms include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness: This can occur when not enough blood is reaching the brain, leading to a lack of oxygen and nutrients.
- Fainting: This can occur if the brain does not receive enough blood flow and can result in temporary loss of consciousness.
- Blurred vision: This can occur if not enough blood is reaching the eyes, leading to decreased oxygen and nutrient supply.
- Nausea: Low blood pressure can cause a lack of blood flow to the stomach, leading to nausea.
- Fatigue: Low blood pressure can make it difficult for the body to receive enough oxygen and nutrients, leading to feelings of fatigue.
- Lack of concentration: Low blood pressure can cause a lack of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, leading to difficulty concentrating.
- Cold, clammy, or pale skin: Low blood pressure can result in decreased blood flow to the skin, leading to coldness, clamminess, and a pale appearance.
Types of low blood pressure
There are several types of low blood pressure, including:
- Orthostatic hypotension: This occurs when a person’s blood pressure drops when they stand up, causing symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.
- Postural hypotension: Similar to orthostatic hypotension, this type of low blood pressure is caused by a sudden drop in blood pressure when changing position.
- Neurogenic hypotension: This type of low blood pressure is caused by damage to the autonomic nervous system, which controls blood pressure.
- Hypovolemic hypotension: This type of low blood pressure is caused by a loss of blood volume, such as from heavy bleeding or dehydration.
- Septic shock: A severe type of low blood pressure caused by a bacterial infection, characterized by a sudden drop in blood pressure, and a fast heart rate.
- Anaphylactic shock: A severe allergic reaction that leads to a sudden drop in blood pressure, difficulty breathing, and rapid heartbeat.
- Cardiogenic hypotension: caused by a problem with the heart, such as heart failure or a heart attack.
What causes low blood pressure (hypotension)
Low blood pressure (hypotension) can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
- Dehydration: When the body does not have enough fluids, the blood volume decreases, leading to low blood pressure.
- Loss of blood: Blood loss from an injury, surgery, or internal bleeding can decrease the amount of blood in the body and lead to low blood pressure.
- Endocrine disorders: Hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease, and other endocrine disorders can cause low blood pressure.
- Heart problems: Heart attack, heart failure, and certain heart conditions can lead to low blood pressure.
- Medications: Some medications, such as diuretics, blood pressure medications, and some antidepressants, can cause low blood pressure.
- Pregnancy: Low blood pressure is common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester.
- Aging: As we age, the blood vessels and heart become less efficient, which can lead to low blood pressure.
- Severe infections: Sepsis, a severe infection of the blood, can cause low blood pressure.
- Anemia: A low red blood cell count can lead to low blood pressure.
- Nutritional deficiencies: Low levels of certain vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin B12 and iron, can lead to low blood pressure.
- Neurological disorders: Certain neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, can cause low blood pressure
Low blood pressure (hypotension) can affect people of all ages, but certain groups of people are more at risk than others. These include:
- Elderly people: As we age, the blood vessels and heart become less efficient, which can lead to low blood pressure.
- People with underlying medical conditions: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and anemia, can increase the risk of low blood pressure.
- People who take certain medications: Some medications, such as diuretics, blood pressure medications, and some antidepressants, can cause low blood pressure.
- Pregnant women: Low blood pressure is common during pregnancy, especially in the first trimester.
- Athletes: Regularly intense physical activity may cause decreased blood pressure because of the body’s adaptation to the training.
- People with autonomic neuropathy: This is a type of nerve damage that can affect the nervous system’s ability to control blood pressure.
Diagnosing low blood pressure
Low blood pressure (hypotension) can be diagnosed through a variety of methods, including:
- Physical examination: A healthcare professional will take your blood pressure, check your pulse, and examine your skin, eyes, and nails for signs of poor blood flow.
- Medical history: Your healthcare professional will ask about your symptoms, any medications you are taking, and any underlying medical conditions you may have.
- Blood tests: Your healthcare professional may order blood tests to check for anemia, diabetes, and other conditions that can cause low blood pressure.
- EKG (electrocardiogram): An EKG can detect any heart problems that may be causing low blood pressure.
- Tilt table test: This test is used to diagnose postural hypotension, a type of low blood pressure that occurs when a person stands up. During the test, the person will lie on a table that is tilted to different angles while their blood pressure and heart rate are monitored.
How to check your blood pressure at home
To check your blood pressure at home, you will need a home blood pressure monitor. These can be purchased at most pharmacies or online.
- Use a reliable and accurate blood pressure monitor.
- Measure your blood pressure at the same time each day, ideally in the morning before taking any medications or eating.
- Sit quietly for at least five minutes before taking your reading.
- Take multiple readings, at least two to three in a row, to ensure accuracy.
- Keep a log of your blood pressure readings, including the date, time, and any other relevant information such as medications taken.
- Share your blood pressure log with your healthcare provider or doctor.
It’s also important to note that home monitoring should not replace regular check-ups with your healthcare provider or doctor. They can help you interpret your readings and make any necessary adjustments to your treatment plan.
Treating low blood pressure
Treatment for low blood pressure (hypotension) will vary depending on the underlying cause and symptoms. Here are some common treatment options:
- Lifestyle changes: Drinking more water, increasing salt intake, and avoiding prolonged standing can help to increase blood pressure.
- Medications: Depending on the cause of low blood pressure, medication such as fludrocortisone, midodrine, or epinephrine may be prescribed to raise blood pressure.
- Addressing underlying conditions: Treating underlying conditions such as anemia, diabetes, or heart failure can help to improve low blood pressure.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be required to treat the underlying cause of low blood pressure.
- Specific treatment for orthostatic hypotension, which can be caused by dehydration, poor nutrition, or certain medications, may include increasing fluid and salt intake, compression stockings, and physical countermeasures such as crossing legs when standing up.
How to ease low blood pressure symptoms
Here are some measures you can take to ease symptoms of low blood pressure:
- Drink more water: Dehydration can cause low blood pressure, so it’s important to drink enough water to stay hydrated.
- Increase your salt intake: Salt helps to retain water in the body, which can raise blood pressure.
- Avoid prolonged standing: Try to move around and change positions frequently, especially if you’re prone to fainting.
- Wear compression stockings: These can help to increase blood flow and reduce the risk of fainting.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help to improve overall health and reduce symptoms of low blood pressure.
- Get enough rest: Fatigue can exacerbate symptoms of low blood pressure, so it’s important to get enough sleep and rest.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, yoga, and meditation can help to reduce stress and improve circulation.
It’s important to consult with your doctor if you have concerns about your blood pressure. They can help determine the cause of your low blood pressure and recommend a suitable treatment plan.
Complications of low blood pressure
Low blood pressure can cause a number of complications, including:
- Dizziness and fainting: Low blood pressure can cause a decrease in blood flow to the brain, leading to dizziness and fainting.
- Fatigue: Low blood pressure can make you feel tired and weak.
- Impaired cognitive function: Low blood pressure can reduce blood flow to the brain, leading to confusion and memory problems.
- Reduced kidney function: Low blood pressure can cause a decrease in blood flow to the kidneys, leading to reduced kidney function.
- Reduced blood flow to the heart: Low blood pressure can cause a decrease in blood flow to the heart, increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke.
- Slow wound healing: Low blood pressure can reduce blood flow to the skin, making it more difficult for wounds to heal.
- Increased risk of falls: Low blood pressure can cause dizziness, making it more likely for a person to fall and get injured.