Blood pressure refers to the force with which blood flowing through the blood vessels exerts itself. This force is largely affected by the amount of blood flowing through the vessels as well as the blood vessels themselves and the stiffness, dilation or flexibility of their walls. Low blood pressure treatment can range from lifestyle changes to medication and more. We will speak about the most common but a specialist should always be consulting before making any health decisions.
When it’s not optimal, blood pressure may be low or high.
What is low blood pressure?
The general description of low blood pressure is when the blood in your arteries exerts itself at an abnormally low force (pressure). Its medical term is hypotension.
Doctors aren’t always in agreement as to what blood pressure is too low but to help you understand better, it’s best to know how blood pressure is measured. To do so, you must understand the two numbers involved: Systolic and diastolic pressure reading.
Systolic pressure (the higher of the two numbers) represents the blood pressure in the arteries when they are freshly filled with blood from the heart. Diastolic pressure is the blood pressure in the arteries while the heart is resting i.e. when in-between beats.
Optimally, the blood pressure should be less than 120/80 (systolic/diastolic). However, numbers like 90/60 could mean the blood pressure is too low.
The good news is, as long as you’re healthy, low blood pressure isn’t usually a concern. While high blood pressure (hypertension) affects about one in every three Americans, low blood pressure affects far much fewer people.
Most of the time, your doctor will only consider low blood pressure dangerous if it causes noticeable signs and symptoms. Otherwise, treatment is rarely necessary.
What causes low blood pressure?
If low blood pressure causes clinical concerns, the cause is usually among the three broad categories:
The heart isn’t pumping with enough pressure
Overly dilated arteries
Insufficient intravascular fluid in the system
Main causes of low blood pressure:
Prolonged bed rest
Pregnancy. It’s common for blood pressure to drop during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy.
A decrease in the amount of blood. This could be due to dehydration, excessive internal bleeding or major trauma.
Medication. Certain drugs may cause low blood pressure. They include diuretics and other medication for hypertension; beta blockers and other similar heart medications; drugs used for Parkinson’s disease; erectile dysfunction medications; tricyclic antidepressants; and narcotics and alcohol. When taken with hypertension medications, certain prescription and OTC drugs may also cause low blood pressure.
Low heart rate, malfunctioning heart valves, heart failure or heart attack. Complications within the body’s endocrine system.
Anaphylactic shock. This is an allergic reaction to drugs, foods such as peanuts, or bee and wasp stings.
Nutritional deficiencies. Lack of enough vitamin B12 and folic acid could result in anemia and in turn low blood pressure.
Prolonged standing. Some people may develop low blood pressure if they stand for long periods. This is known as neutrally mediated hypotension and mostly affects young people.
How is low blood pressure treated?
Don’t be alarmed by a single unusually low reading. However, consult your healthcare provider if you experience other symptoms or problems such as lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, fainting, breathing problems, itching, unusual thirst, etc.
To help with the diagnosis, keep a record of the symptoms and any accompanying activities when you first experience them.
Below are some of the preventative and treatment measures for low blood pressure:
Stand up regularly and do other simple activities such as stretching in bed before you wake up. This increases your heart rate and enhances the flow of blood. However, don’t stand for long periods to avoid neutrally mediated hypotension.
Use compression stockings. Also known as support stockings, compression stockings provide extra pressure to your feet, legs, and tummy to help improve blood circulation.
Limit your alcohol intake and avoid taking caffeine at night. This could lead to dehydration.
Increase fluid and salt intake. Drinking enough fluid helps boost your blood volume while salt may help raise your blood pressure. However, make sure to consult with your doctor before you increase your salt intake.
Change your medication. If your doctor suspects that your current medication is causing low blood pressure, they may alter the dose or advise accordingly.
Treat underlying conditions. Sometimes, low blood pressure is caused by underlying problems. If your doctor suspects this, they may refer you to a specialist.
Medication. Usually, low blood pressure can be treated by making the mentioned changes. Medication is rarely prescribed. When it’s necessary, it will most likely be to boost blood volume or narrow your arteries.
If you have concerns and would like to learn if low blood pressure treatment may be necessary for you please schedule a consultation with the specialists at Manhattan Cardiology.
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Mary Greene, MD is a cardiologist who specializes in Coronary and Peripheral Vascular Procedures, Echocardiography and Nuclear Cardiology, and Cardiovascular Disease Medicine. She is board-certified in Internal Medicine, Cardiovascular Disease, Echocardiography, Nuclear Cardiography, and RPVI. After completing her undergraduate degree in biochemistry at SUNY Binghamton,... Learn More »