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September 9, 2022

Explaining Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure is a health problem in which the blood flowing through the veins has abnormally low pressure. While high blood pressure is more well known, low blood pressure is still a common health issue. Low blood pressure usually has mild symptoms, but can pose a serious risk as well. Understanding what low blood pressure is and how it is treated is valuable.

What Is Low Blood Pressure?

Low blood pressure, which is also called hypotension, occurs when blood pressure is at 90/60 mm Hg or lower, which is below the normal healthy range. Blood pressure is simply the force of the blood as it presses against the walls of blood vessels. Low blood pressure can affect anyone, but is more common among older individuals. People who have vitamin deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, heart problems, or liver disease are most likely to suffer from hypotension.

Kinds of Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure is divided into a few different categories. Orthostatic hypotension occurs when suddenly rising from a sitting or lying position, as a result of blood pooling in the legs. Postprandial low blood pressure occurs one to two hours after eating, as a result of blood flowing to the digestive tract. Neurally mediated hypotension occurs after standing for long periods, seemingly because of miscommunication between the brain and heart. Finally, low blood pressure can also occur in rare instances because of damage to the nervous system.

Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure

The most common symptoms of hypotension include blurred vision, headaches, nausea or vomiting, back or neck pain, feeling lightheaded, fatigue or weakness, and heart palpitations. More serious symptoms include fainting, confusion, cold and clammy skin, and rapid, shallow breathing. If these more severe symptoms develop, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention, since the victim may be suffering from shock. Shock is a life-threatening health problem in which the body receives insufficient blood flow.

Diagnosing Low Blood Pressure

If someone has low blood pressure, the next step is to identify the cause. A doctor might recommend any of these three diagnostic methods: blood tests, an electrocardiogram test, or a tilt table test. Blood tests are used to identify such conditions as anemia, hyperglycemia, and hypoglycemia, all of which can cause low blood pressure. An electrocardiogram detects problems with the heart such as blood and oxygen supply issues and heart rhythm abnormalities, both of which can cause hypotension. Finally, tilt table testing establishes if changes in body position are causing low blood pressure.

Treating Low Blood Pressure

The first step to treating low blood pressure is to make simple lifestyle modifications. A physician may recommend changes such as drinking more liquids, consuming more salt, limiting alcohol intake, avoiding standing still for long periods, regularly exercising, eating smaller meals, avoiding heavy lifting, or getting up from a sitting or lying position slowly. Usually such basic changes will solve the problem.

However, if low blood pressure persists even after lifestyle changes, a doctor may prescribe medications to address the problem. One commonly used medication is fludrocortisone, which causes the kidneys to retain sodium, thereby boosting blood pressure. The other commonly used medication is midodrine, which activates artery and vein receptors that increase blood pressure.

Low blood pressure has the potential to be a serious health problem. Fortunately, modern medical knowledge ensures that low blood pressure can almost always be effectively treated.

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