Blood Pressure: The Lows
August 17, 2015 at 6:34 pm
As a follow up to Blood Pressure: The Highs, while in the spirit of raising awareness about this issue, we bring you the skinny on low blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force used by your heart vs. the resistance created by your arteries (the action that keeps your blood flowing). The lower it is, the lower your risk of stroke or heart disease; however, too low can an also be problematic.
How can I tell if I have low blood pressure?
Lower isn’t always better. Low blood pressure, also called hypotension, can range from unpleasant to potentially dangerous. The tricky part is, what may be considered low for one person, could be normal for someone else. The good news is, according to the American Heart Association, you have no need to worry unless you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms:
- Dizziness or fainting
- Unusual thirst due to dehydration
- Lack of concentration
- Blurred vision or fatigue
- Rapid or shallow breathing
- Cold, clammy, or pale skin
These symptoms are created by low blood flow through the arteries and veins. With low blood flow, not enough oxygen and nutrients are able to be delivered to parts of your body such as the brain, heart, and kidneys.
What causes it?
Low pressure can occur due to one or a combination of many different factors. According to Mayo Clinic, the following medications and medical conditions may attribute to low blood pressure:
- Heart and endocrine problems
- Dehydration and lack of nutrition
- Significant blood loss and severe infection
- Severe allergic reaction
- Diuretics and antidepressants
- Alpha blockers and beta blockers
- Drugs for Parkinson’s Disease
Low blood pressure is not always brought on by medications and medical conditions. Orthostatic hypotension is a sudden drop in blood pressure when standing up from a sitting or reclined position. Most of us have experience this sensation before and it is not dangerous as long as you are aware of it and are careful. If this happens to you, always sit up for a few minutes before standing all the way up. Some people experience sudden drops in their blood pressure after eating large meals, which is called postprandial hypotension. Eating smaller meals more frequently throughout the day can alleviate this.
How do I treat it?
Although there are medications that help treat low blood pressure, if you are experiencing any symptoms, you should address the primary health problem first rather than the low blood pressure itself. If you are unable to identify what the underlying cause is, start by making these lifestyle changes that can raise your blood pressure naturally:
- Drink lots of water
- Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages
- Stay physically active
- Stand up slowly and with care
- Avoid heavy lifting
- Avoid hot showers and spas
- Consume more salt
- Eat smaller, more frequent meals
- Use compression socks to help restrict excessive blood flow to the legs
High or low, if your blood pressure falls outside the “normal” range (link to high blood pressure blog/blood pressure chart), you should track it at your doctor’s office, via an at home blood pressure tracker, or use a blood pressure monitor found at your local Publix, CVS, or Walgreens. Associate Medical Director at True Health, Sharine Wishart, ARNP, FNP-BC, tells us “It’s important to monitor your blood pressure regularly in order to keep informed about your health.” Remember to always check with your doctor and never rely entirely on at home methods.