Low blood pressure (Hypotension): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

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Low blood pressure (Hypotension): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

A normal blood pressure is around 120/80 (120 over 80). You have low blood pressure (also known as hypotension) if your blood pressure drops below 90/60 (90 over 60). Your blood pressure naturally drops at various times, but lower blood pressure over a long time can be cause by underlying health conditions. Low blood pressure can also be caused by some medications or as a natural result of getting older. Low blood pressure does not necessarily pose a threat to your health. Some people with blood pressure below 90/60 lead perfectly normal lives. It is the presence of symptoms that determines whether your low blood pressure is problematic or not. Low blood pressure is usually not dangerous but it can be serious if it’s causing symptoms like fainting, dizziness, or tiredness

People who suffer from chronic low blood pressure (orthostatic hypotension) often experience problems when they get up from a lying or sitting position and feel lightheaded. In severe cases of low blood pressure, patients can suffer from shock and even stroke.

Self diagnosis – If you get symptoms like dizziness or lightheadedness, fainting (syncope) and vision, you probably have low blood pressure.

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How does Low Blood Pressure affect your body?

Low blood pressure means that the blood flow in the body might be insufficient to bring enough oxygen and nutrients to your organs. When blood pressure is extremely low, people can eventually lose consciousness.

What are the Causes of Low Blood Pressure?

There are factors that can temporarily contribute to low blood pressure such as stress, age, temperature, time of the day (e.g. evening) and time since the last meal. Also, staying in bed for a very long time causes a temporary drop in blood pressure.

Common causes of low blood pressure:

  • Pregnancy, especially during the first six months
  • Heart disease (e.g. a slow heart rate known as bradycardia) that lowers blood pressure – for example, after a heart attack
  • Endocrine disorder, i.e. hormonal disease due to a gland problem (e.g. thyroid or kidneys); in some cases, diabetes can cause low blood pressure too
  • Dehydration, which is often caused by vomiting, diarrhoea, fever and heat strokes. Mild dehydration may cause you to feel dizzy or even faint. If prolonged, this can lead to shock and other serious conditions
  • Blood loss, due to an injury, internal bleeding or severe dehydration (less water in the blood) that results in a decrease in the amount of blood circulating in your body
  • Septic shock, when a bacterial infection reaches the bloodstream from an infected organ
  • Severe allergic reaction (breathing problems, hives, itching, swollen throat), usually resulting from certain foods, venomous insect sting or penicillin. This can cause a dangerous sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Lack of essential vitamins in your diet will cause anaemia (not enough red blood cells) which causes of low blood pressure.

Medications that cause low blood pressure :

Medications for high blood pressure as well as for the heart and depression can cause low blood pressure. That includes beta-blockers, alpha-blockers, calcium channel blockers along with tri-cyclical antidepressants.

Also, water pills (diuretics) lower your blood pressure by reducing the amount of water in your body.

What are the Risk Factors of Low Blood Pressure?

Common risk factors include :

  • Age – Drops in blood pressure on standing or after eating occur primarily in adults older than 65. Neurally mediated hypotension primarily affects children and younger adults.
  • Medications – People who take certain medications, for example, high blood pressure medications such as alpha blockers, have a greater risk of low blood pressure.
  • Certain diseases – Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and some heart conditions put you at a greater risk of developing low blood pressure.
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What are the symptoms of Low Blood Pressure?

Symptoms include:

  • Feeling dizzy, lightheaded or unsteady
  • Fainting
  • Blurred vision
  • Heartbeats that are more noticeable (palpitations)
  • Feeling sick (nausea), weak or very tired
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How is Low Blood Pressure diagnosed?

Diagnostic methods include :

  • Blood tests – These can provide information about your overall health as well as whether you have low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), high blood sugar (hyperglycemia or diabetes) or a low red blood cell count (anemia), all of which can cause lower than normal blood pressure.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) – During this painless, noninvasive test, soft, sticky patches (electrodes) are attached to the skin of your chest, arms and legs. The patches detect your heart’s electrical signals while a machine records them on graph paper or displays them on a screen.
  • Echocardiogram – This noninvasive exam, which includes an ultrasound of your chest, shows detailed images of your heart’s structure and function. Ultrasound waves are transmitted, and their echoes are recorded with a device called a transducer, which is held outside your body. A computer uses the information from the transducer to create moving images on a video monitor.
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How to prevent & control Low Blood Pressure?

  • Add more sodium to your diet.
  • Eat small meals – Instead of eating three large meals, try eating five or six small meals spaced evenly throughout the day.
  • Avoid rapidly digestible carbs – If your body processes food very rapidly, it can lead to a decrease in blood pressure. For instance, foods which are processed rapidly like white rice and white bread will lower your blood pressure. Foods with beans, protein, and whole grains will keep your blood pressure stable. Replace whole grain bread with white bread on your sandwich, and eat brown rice instead of white rice with beans.
  • Get enough vitamins and nutrients – A lack of nutrients in your diet can lead to low blood pressure. For instance, if you do not have enough B12 in your diet, your body will not not have enough red blood cells. This can lead to anemia, a symptom of which is low blood pressure.[4] A lack of folic acid can produce the same conditions. Broccoli, beans, and lentils are good sources of folic acid. Milk, eggs, fish, and fortified breakfast foods are good sources of B12. Incorporate these foods into your diet on a regular basis.
  • Drink more water – Dehydration is the leading cause of orthostatic hypotension. Not only does water prevent dehydration, it increases blood volume. Increased blood volume translates to lower blood pressure. Aim to drink at least eight to ten 8-ounce glasses of water each day.

Treatment of Low Blood Pressure

As such, no treatment is required for temporary low blood pressure. But in case of chronic low blood pressure i.e. orthostatic hypotension, treatment is given.

Allopathic treatment –

Treatment depends on the cause. Options may include:

  • Fluids to treat dehydration
  • Management of diabetes, such as regular insulin injections
  • Changes in medication or altered doses if drugs are the cause (sometimes, however, stopping or altering the dose of a particular medication may cause more harm than good and must be carefully considered in consultation with your doctor)
  • Medication, surgery or both to treat heart conditions
  • Medication to increase blood volume or pressure, including corticosteroids
  • Medications to treat orthostatic hypotension including pyridostigmine, a drug used in the treatment of myasthenia gravis

Homeopathic treatment –

The most effective homeopathic medicines for low blood pressure are Gelsemium, China, Naja and Viscum Album. Gelsemium is opted when vertigo, dizziness and light headedness is marked on account of low blood pressure. China is highly beneficial for low blood pressure from dehydration after diarrhoea and from blood loss. And last two homeopathic medicines Naja and Viscum Album are an excellent choice when valvular heart lesions lead to low blood pressure.

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Low Blood Pressure – Lifestyle Tips

  • Don’t stand up quickly.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Ask your doctor whether you need more salt in your diet.
  • Discuss your medication options with your doctor.
  • If you feel faint, dizzy or unsteady, stop what you are doing and sit or lie down, and drink some water.

What are Recommended Exercises for Person with Low Blood Pressure?

While all exercise is beneficial, cardio is most important for strengthening the heart so that it can pump blood more efficiently.

Low Blood Pressure & Pregnancy – Things to know

Having low blood pressure during pregnancy is common. Most of the time, this condition won’t cause major problems, and blood pressure will return to normal levels after you give birth. In some cases, however, very low blood pressure may be the sign of a serious, or even life-threatening problem that can be dangerous for both mother and child.

Low blood pressure may also be a sign of ectopic pregnancy, which happens when a fertilized egg implants outside of a woman’s uterus.

Common Complications Related to Low Blood Pressure

Moderate forms of low blood pressure can cause complications like dizziness, weakness, fainting and a risk of injury from falls.

Severely low blood pressure can deprive your body of enough oxygen to carry out its normal functions, leading to damage to your heart and brain.

Other FAQs about Low Blood Pressure

Q. What is a dangerously low blood pressure?

A. Most doctors consider blood pressure too low only if it causes symptoms. Some experts define low blood pressure as readings lower than 90 mm Hg systolic or 60 mm Hg diastolic. If either number is below that, your pressure is lower than normal. A sudden fall in blood pressure can be dangerous.

Q. Can low bp cause tiredness?

A. In general, chronic low blood pressure does not cause fatigue. If someone’s blood pressure drops suddenly (because of an infection or because of a heart problem or because of dehydration, etc) then one can feel tired, lightheaded and sick.

Q. What foods cure low blood pressure?

A. To help prevent blood pressure from dropping sharply after meals, eat small portions several times a day and limit high-carbohydrate foods such as potatoes, rice, pasta and bread. Your doctor also might recommend drinking caffeinated coffee or tea with meals to temporarily raise blood pressure.

Q. Is coffee good for low blood pressure?

A. Caffeine can cause a short, but dramatic increase in your blood pressure, even if you don’t have high blood pressure. It’s unclear what causes this spike in blood pressure. Some researchers believe that caffeine could block a hormone that helps keep your arteries widened.


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