THE FACTS YOU NEED TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT LOW BLOOD PRESSURE
Persons living with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), if given the choice, may opt for the flip side of their condition. This flip side is low blood pressure (hypotension), and while it may seem desirable at first, it is no walk in the park either.
For some people, it causes no problems whatsoever. However, the majority of people suffering from low blood pressure often experience severe dizziness and episodes of fainting. In its most severe form, hypotension can be life-threatening.
WHAT IS LOW BLOOD PRESSURE?
A person is considered to have low blood pressure once his/her blood pressure reads lower than normal. Lower than normal would be a number lower than 90 over 60. You are considered to be hypotensive if your number reads thus.
SYMPTOMS OF LOW BLOOD PRESSURE
Unlike high blood pressure where there are usually no warning signs until you get checked for it, low blood pressure comes with a unique collection of symptoms. If you suffer from these symptoms, you might want to get checked out for low blood pressure:
- Episodic fainting
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Inability to concentrate
- Blurred vision
- In extreme cases, these symptoms might also become apparent:
- Cold, clammy skin
- Weak and rapid pulse
- Rapid, shallow breathing
CAUSES OF LOW BLOOD PRESSURE
Oftentimes, low blood pressure occurs as a symptom of another medical condition. Medical conditions that can lead to low blood pressure include:
Pregnancy: Pregnancy causes the circulatory system to expand rapidly, so blood pressure often drops as a result. Blood pressure however usually returns to the pre-pregnancy level after childbirth.
Endocrine conditions: Thyroid problems such as adrenal insufficiency, parathyroid disease, hypoglycemia, and diabetes can trigger low blood pressure.
Dehydration: When the body takes in less water than it loses (in cases of vomiting, diarrhea, strenuous exercise and the overuse of diuretics), it becomes dehydrated and causes weakness, dizziness, and fatigue. Blood pressure usually drops during an episode of dehydration.
Heart problems: Heart problems such as heart valve problems, low heart rate (bradycardia), heart attack and heart failure can lead to low blood pressure.
Septicemia/Severe infection: When someone suffers from a body infection that gets into the blood, it can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure called septic shock.
Anaphylaxis/severe allergic reaction: For persons suffering from allergies, anaphylaxis is a real threat. And when anaphylaxis does occur, it often causes breathing problems, itching, a swollen throat, hives, and more often than not a dangerous drop in blood pressure.
Extreme blood loss: Your blood pressure falls when you lose a lot of blood, whether such blood loss is from a major injury or internal bleeding.
Inadequate nutrients intake: When the body lacks vitamins B-12 and folate, it is unable to produce enough red blood cells and this can cause low blood pressure.
Intake of certain medications: Some medications can cause low blood pressure. These include alpha blockers, beta blockers, diuretics, some brands of antidepressants, some medication for Parkinson’s disease, and some medications for erectile dysfunction.
TYPES OF LOW BLOOD PRESSURE
There are several types of low blood pressure and physicians categorize hypotension on the basis of the causal factors. Here are the four types of low blood pressure:
Orthostatic/ postural hypotension: This is a sudden drop in blood pressure that occurs when the sufferer stands up from a sitting position or after lying down. Because gravity causes blood to pool in the legs when you stand, the body compensates by increasing the heart rate and constricting blood vessels, to ensure that enough blood returns to the brain. People suffering from postural hypotension often have a faulty compensation mechanism and blood pressure falls, leading to light-headedness, dizziness, blurred vision and fainting. Postural low blood pressure often results from prolonged bed rest, dehydration, pregnancy, heart problems, diabetes, burns, excessive heat, and large varicose veins.
Postprandial hypotension: This is low blood pressure that occurs after eating. Blood flows to the digestive tract after we eat, and our body increases the heart rate and constricts certain blood vessels to help maintain normal blood pressure. People with postprandial hypotension have a faulty mechanism and often get dizzy, fall or faint after eating. This kind of hypotension is more likely to occur in people with high blood pressure or Parkinson’s disease.
Neurally mediated hypotension: This is low blood pressure from faulty brain signals, and occurs because of a miscommunication between the brain and the heart.
Shy-Drager syndrome: This is low blood pressure that occurs as a result of nervous system damage. It is a rare disorder that causes progressive damage to the autonomic nervous system that regulates involuntary functions such as heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and digestion.
WHO ISAT RISK OF DEVELOPING LOW BLOOD PRESSURE?
Drops in blood pressure when standing or after eating usually occurs in adults older than 65 while neurally mediated hypotension usually affects children and younger adults.
Certain diseases such as Parkinson’s, diabetes and certain heart conditions increases the risk of developing hypotension.
Certain medications such as alpha blockers increase the risk of developing low blood pressure.
Change of medication: If low blood pressure is caused by certain medications, treatment usually involves lowering the dose of the medication, changing it or stopping it altogether.
Eating more salt: While people with high blood pressure must avoid salt, people suffering from low blood pressure are advised to consume more salt as sodium can raise blood pressure.
Drinking more water: When you drink more water, your blood volume increases, and you prevent dehydration, and both of these factors are important when treating hypotension.
Wearing compression stockings: These help to reduce the pooling of blood in the legs, and by so doing raise blood pressure.
Medications: In cases of severe low blood pressure, physicians often use medications to treat the disease. A common low blood pressure medication is fludrocortisone and it works too by boosting the blood volume.
Drinking less alcohol: You will do well to drink less alcohol or stop drinking it altogether as it is dehydrating and can lower blood pressure even further.
Eat a healthy diet: Make sure to get all the nutrients your body needs for good health by focusing on a healthy diet which incorporates whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and fish.
Be mindful of your body positions: Stand up slowly and don’t cross your legs when sitting. You can also sleep with the head of your bed slightly elevated. If you begin to get low blood pressure symptoms while standing, cross your thighs in a scissors fashion and squeeze them. Alternatively, you can put one foot on a chair and lean as far forward as you possibly can. These maneuvers allow blood to flow from your legs back to your heart.