Low blood pressure - symptoms, cause, and treatment

Article

26. 05. 2021 General practitioner

Low blood pressure (hypotension) is not a risk factor itself, but it can lead to falls and serious injuries resulting in death. The most common symptoms of low blood pressure are dizziness, faintness and loss of consciousness.  

Normal blood pressure values vary depending on age

Blood pressure is the pressure of circulating blood against the walls of blood vessels. Most of this pressure results from the heart pumping blood through the circulatory system. It is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and is given in two values separated by a slash. The first (systolic pressure) refers to the amount of pressure during the contraction of the heart and the release of blood into the bloodstream. The second (diastolic pressure) defines its state when relaxed. The resulting value thus shows the state of cardiac output and vascular elasticity.

Generally, the optimal blood pressure value is considered to be 120/80 mm Hg. In reality, however, blood pressure varies according to age, gender and medical condition. In infants, a pressure of 80/45 mm Hg is considered the norm, in older children 110/70 mm Hg, in people with diabetes 130/80 mm Hg and in adults suffering from kidney disease 110/80 mm Hg.

Low blood pressure – normal values according to age, sex and health condition

Infant

<80/45

Older child

<110/70

Adult man

<100/60

Adult woman

<100/70

Diabetic

<110/60

Adult with kidney disease

<110/60

 

Symptoms of low blood pressure

"When low blood pressure is suspected, it is recommended to get an at-home blood pressure monitor. It is necessary to follow the correct measurement technique so that the results can are accurate and representative. We recommend measuring your BP while sitting in a chair with back support, ideally 3 times in a row at different times of the day, or at times you feel particularly weak. Our blood pressure fluctuates during the day, usually, it’s the highest in the morning and the lowest in the evening. Therefore, one measurement is not enough for a reliable assessment of the condition, but a longer-term observation is necessary. A recorded week of blood pressure measurements will significantly help the doctor to determine the cause of low blood pressure,"points out Dr. Lenka Rudolfová, general practitioner at Canadian Medical.

The following symptoms could also be signs of hypotension:

  • dizziness and vertigo,
  • fainting,
  • headaches,
  • black flashes in front of the eyes,
  • tinnitus,
  • heart palpitations,
  • cold hands,
  • sweating,
  • fatigue,
  • frequent yawning

TIP: Do you want to keep your blood pressure under control? Don’t forget to attend your preventive check-ups with your general practitioner once every two years, which also includes blood-pressure measurements. You can get a regular overview of the state of your blood pressure in the comfort of your home thanks to your own blood pressure monitor.

 

Causes of low blood pressure

"The cause of low blood pressure is insufficient blood being pumped from the heart or the inability of blood vessels to contract properly during blood flow. These problems most commonly occur as a side effect of some medications - most commonly those used to treat high blood pressure. It can also occur in diseases of the heart, brain, kidneys, endocrine organs, or cancer. Lack of vitamins and other nutrients in the diet or loss of body fluids (blood as a cause of injury, plasma during burns and water during dehydration) may also be to blame. But in countless cases, it occurs for no reason at all - often in slender and tall women, where it can lead to fainting, especially when hot and exhaled. Low blood pressure is a common problem in old age, when the thirst signal is reduced, and seniors are often treated with a combination of drugs for various diseases. Their blood vessels are also worn with age and do not pump blood up from their lower extremities as efficiently, there is a main risk of falls after standing on their feet. It also occurs physiologically during pregnancy, because the foetus puts a big burden on the mother's circulatory system, "explains Dr. Lenka Rudolfová.”

 

Risks assosciated with low blood pressure

Hypotension is not as much of a concern as hypertension would be, but it should definitely not be overlooked.  Weakness or headache, dizziness, fatigue and other symptoms of low blood pressure in the long run make normal functioning debilitating. The main risk is fainting, which can lead to fatal injuries - for example, if it occurs when crossing the road or driving motor vehicles. In addition, low blood pressure may indicate a more serious illness.

 

How to increase low blood pressure

Lifestyle modification is the primary recommendation as treatment for low blood pressure. Medications are recommended in case of long-term complicated disease, where it is possible that lifestyle changes will not help. An strict drinking regimen is important, as sufficient hydration increases the amount of fluid in the body and thus improves blood flow through the blood vessels. The diet should not lack foods rich in protein, vitamins (especially C and B) and adding more salt to your dishes is recommended, as the sodium contained in the salt increases the pressure. The increase in blood pressure is also helped by regular physical activity, which stimulates blood circulation and thus improves blood flow to the brain.

We would not recommend drinking more coffee and alcohol as a treatment for hypotension,  because it’s only a temporary, short-term solution, and  these promotes urination, which eliminates the body's fluids and ultimately can actually reduce blood pressure significantly. It is better to have an herbal or green tea containing tein, which, unlike caffeine, has a longer-lasting effect.

 

Quick tips for managing low blood pressure

One-off tips and tricks to increase blood pressure vary depending on the cause. The low pressure caused by long standing in a room with little airflow can be reduced by crossing the legs or lowering the position of the head (sit down and put the head between the knees, bend down to the position to tie the laces, etc.). If you have difficulty lifting your legs abruptly, for example when getting out of bed, then it is recommended to sit down for a while before getting up.

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