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This Month In Health
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Health and Fitness News

How Low Can You Go?

Believe it or not, your blood pressure can be too low.

You often hear the dangers of high blood pressure. It’s a serious risk factor of heart disease, and millions of people don’t even know they have it. If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, lifestyle changes and medication can help you reach a normal blood pressure reading of below 120/80 mmHg.

You may think the lower you go, the better. However, if your systolic blood pressure (the top number) falls below 90 mmHg or your diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) falls below 60 mmHg, you have hypotension. The opposite of hypertension, hypotension means you have low blood pressure.

Your Body Needs Blood

Blood pressure is how much force is placed on your artery walls when blood flows through them. Too much pressure can cause heart attack, heart failure, and other problems. When there’s not enough pressure, blood may not reach your brain or extremities. This causes you to feel dizzy or lightheaded. You may even faint. This is why you feel dizzy sometimes when you stand up too fast. Other symptoms of low blood pressure may include blurred vision, nausea, weakness, fatigue, pale skin, or cold and clammy skin.

Just like high blood pressure, blood pressure that falls too low can be life-threatening. When the brain and heart don’t get enough blood, your organs may begin to shut down, and your body goes into shock. Symptoms include rapid and shallow breathing, a weak but rapid pulse, mental confusion, or cold and pale skin.

Many Possible Causes

There are many factors that can contribute to hypotension. Therefore, the exact cause of low blood pressure can be hard to determine. Whatever the cause, high and low blood pressure become more common as you age. Certain health conditions are thought to cause low blood pressure. These include diabetes, Parkinson’s hypothyroidism, heart failure, heart arrhythmia, and liver disease. Medications that affect blood pressure can also cause it. As can pregnancy, nutritional deficiencies, heat stroke, or heat exhaustion.

Life-threatening drops in blood pressure may be caused by low or high body temperature, extreme blood loss, sepsis, severe dehydration, severe allergic reaction, or heart failure.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you have any of the symptoms listed above, see your doctor. While low blood pressure may not interfere with your daily life, it may indicate something else is going on that needs to be treated.

In most cases, low blood pressure is managed through diet and lifestyle changes. Raising your blood pressure can be as simple as eating more salt or drinking more fluids. You may need to wear compression socks, change medications, or get more exercise. When diet and lifestyle changes don’t help, your doctor may prescribe blood pressure-specific medication.

Various Types

With so many causes of low blood pressure, the condition is divided into different categories. Your treatment depends on the type of low blood pressure you have.

Orthostatic or postural hypotension occurs when you stand up after lying or sitting down. Gravity causes blood to pool in your lower body. When you stand, it takes too long to reach your brain due to a fault in the blood vessels.
Low blood pressure that occurs after a meal is known as postprandial hypotension. It’s the result of blood having the wrong priorities. While it’s busy digesting food in the digestive tracts, it fails to reach the brain.

Some people experience low blood pressure after long periods of standing. This is called neurally mediated hypotension. It’s caused by a miscommunication between the nervous system and heart.

In rare cases, low blood pressure is caused by nervous system damage. Known as multiple system atrophy with orthostatic hypotension, this condition leads to symptoms similar to Parkinson’s disease.