- What is blood pressure?
- What is a blood pressure reading and what do the two numbers mean?
- What exactly happens when my doctor or nurse takes my blood pressure?
- How is blood pressure produced?
- How does my body keep to a normal and healthy blood pressure?
- What does it mean if I have low blood pressure (hypotension)?
- What does it mean if I have high blood pressure (hypertension)?
What does it mean if I have low blood pressure (hypotension)?
Low blood pressure can often result in fainting and dizziness – this is caused by the low blood flow throughout the body. In some cases, it can be potentially life-threatening. However, low blood pressure is not usually unhealthy and can be easily lived with. The aforementioned symptoms are common when you move from lying down to standing positions. The condition is serious when the lack of blood flow to vital organs results in kidney failure, heart attacks and strokes.
If you are often susceptible to dizziness and feeling faint, it is best that you consult with your doctor or a healthcare professional in order to have your blood pressure checked and learn how to manage it if necessary.
Unlike high blood pressure, low blood pressure is defined by the signs of a low blood flow and not necessarily the reading.
Therefore, the symptoms can be characterised in the list below, if you experience any of these, stop what you are doing, try drink some water and sit down. If you have frequent symptoms, when they become chronic, you should consult with your doctor.
- Feeling dizzy and unsteady
- Blurred vision
- Confusion about your surroundings or actions
- Feeling weak
- Feeling sick in wanting to vomit
Possible Causes and Risks
If your blood pressure reading is low, you doctor will often check if it is a result of any of the following:
- Stress levels – in general, the more relaxed you are, the lower your blood pressure will be. However, panic and anxiety attacks may lead to hyperventilation wherein your body feels like it is unable to get enough air, although the reality is that you’re getting too much by breathing in a rapid manner. Without enough carbon dioxide, the body has to work harder to operate correctly and so it will increase the dilation of blood vessels in order to get the blood to flow quicker and this can cause a drop-in blood pressure.
- How often you exercise – if you are healthy and exercising daily, your blood pressure will be low when you are resting.
- What time of day it is – your blood pressure rises during the day and decreases towards your bed time and when sleeping.
- What the temperature it is – if the weather is hot, your blood pressure may fall.
- If you have just eaten a meal – when you have just eaten, blood is sent to your gut to help in processing the food, the blood pressure in the rest of your body drops.
- As you get older, your blood pressure normally rises. But it is also possible that it may drop as the body is unable to regulate its circulatory system as well as it may have when you were younger.
- Some research has indicated that blood pressure may be genetic – meaning that if your parents have a low blood pressure, you could also be at risk.
Some medication may cause your blood pressure to drop:
- Diuretics (water tablets)
- Beta-blockers – medicine that is used for heart problems.
- Alpha-blockers – these are medicines used to lower your blood pressure when suffering from hypertension, as well as to treat men who suffer from prostate problems.
- Some antidepressants – check with your doctor to make sure your medication is not affecting your blood pressure.
If you are considered to be at risk of hypotension, it is important that your doctor ensures that your medicine does not worsen the situation.
Possible health conditions linked to low blood pressure
- Heart conditions such as a heart attack may cause the heart to pump less blood.
- Anaemia can often link to low blood pressure, where there are fewer red blood cells or a lessened amount of haemoglobin (protein molecules in the red blood cells that transport oxygen from the lungs to the body and bring carbon dioxide back to the lungs) than normal.
- Neurological disorders affecting your nerves.
- Hormone problems such as diabetes or other conditions like hypothyroidism (having an under active thyroid).
Serious injury or shock
- Losing a lot of blood through injury.
- Shock to the body such as anaphylactic shock, caused by an allergic reaction, causes your body to produce a large amount of histamine to combat the reaction. This causes your blood vessels to widen and therefore a drop in your blood pressure is the result.
How should I treat low blood pressure?
If you suffer from chronic low blood pressure symptoms, as listed above, it is best to seek advice and prognosis from your doctor.
However, there is some general advice when it comes to dealing with low blood pressure:
- Stand up slowly, especially first thing in the morning, allowing your body to adjust to the movement and get the blood flowing. It may also help to stretch in bed before you get up.
- Try not to stand for long periods of time this can help to prevent miscommunication between the heart and brain, which is known as neurally mediated hypotension, this is also known as the fainting reflex.
- Sometimes compression stockings help provide extra pressure for your feet, legs and stomach, which helps to improve circulation.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol which could make you dehydrated.
- Eat smaller meals more frequently, this helps to prevent postprandial hypotension, this refers to the decrease in blood pressure that happens after a meal as your body sends more blood to your gut to process the food.
- Increase your fluid intake.
- Medication is often not prescribed for low blood pressure. If it is necessary, however, it will be used to narrow your arteries or increase your heart rate. The goal of treatment is to correct the cause of the low blood pressure. Medication cannot typically be prescribed to increase the volume of blood, however. this can be done through an IV drip or blood transfusion to replenish any blood that has been lost.