When we think about blood pressure, high levels are the most common cause of concern. This is because high blood pressure can cause long-term damage to our organs. However, low blood pressure can cause problems too. From causes to complications, today we will look at what low blood pressure means.
Ideal Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is important for our wellbeing. In short, it is the force your heart uses to pump blood around your body. High blood pressure puts unnecessary strain on your heart and blood vessels, and low blood pressure limits how much blood moves around your body. Therefore, we should all be striving to maintain the ideal blood pressure measurement. Blood pressure is measured in ‘millimetres of mercury’, which is generally written as ‘mmHg’ (‘mm’ for millimetres, and ‘Hg’ for the chemical symbol of Mercury).
In the average adult, the ideal measurement is between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mmHg. The two numbers come from the two different methods of measuring blood pressure: systolic, which is when the heart pushes blood out, and diastolic, which is when your heart is resting.
If your blood pressure is below 90/60 mmHg, it is considered low blood pressure (also known as hypotension).
Causes of Low Blood Pressure
Blood pressure varies throughout the day. For most people, blood pressure increases as we wake up and will remain steady. However, it can be impacted by any medication we take, stress levels, and the food or drink we consume. Often, these factors will contribute to higher blood pressure.
One of the leading factors in low blood pressure is age. Over-65s are at increased risk of experiencing low blood pressure when standing up or after eating. Medical conditions, however, are amongst the most common causes of low blood pressure.
Whilst not necessarily what comes to mind when you think of ‘medical conditions’, pregnancy can contribute to low blood pressure. Hormone changes during pregnancy cause blood vessels to expand, and these changes may cause blood pressure to drop. Low blood pressure most commonly affects people during the first 24 weeks and returns to normal not long after giving birth.
If a person is dehydrated, they do not have enough fluid in their blood. This lowers the volume of blood being pumped through the body, which in turn reduces blood pressure. There are several factors that can contribute to dehydration, such as exercise, fever, or vomiting. Keeping fluids up is a good way of avoiding low blood pressure.
Lack of Nutrients
The body needs vitamins and minerals to function properly. A lack of certain nutrients can impact the body’s ability to produce red blood cells. When we lack red blood cells, this is known as anaemia, and this can lead to low blood pressure. The main nutrients needed to produce red blood cells are folate, iron, and vitamin B-12.
If a person has a medical condition that impacts their heart health, such as heart failure, bradycardia, or a disease impacting the heart valves, the heart will not function efficiently. When the heart does not pump properly, it cannot build enough pressure to move blood around the body.
People living with Parkinson’s Disease are at increased risk of experiencing low blood pressure. This will often occur when adjusting their position or getting up. Known as postural or orthostatic hypotension, this can affect anyone, but people with Parkinson’s are more likely to experience it.
Generally, diabetes is linked to high blood pressure more than low. However, like Parkinson’s Disease, diabetes can trigger postural or orthostatic hypotension. In most cases, this will be linked to low blood sugar.
Infections and Allergies
Severe reactions to infections or allergies can lead to sudden drops in blood pressure, which could become life-threatening in some cases.
In some cases, low blood pressure can also be triggered by medication. It is only certain types of medication that may trigger this, however, and lower blood pressure is often a rarer side effect. Some examples include:
- Certain antidepressants
- Beta blockers, such as atenolol and propranolol
- Pramipexole, or medication containing levodopa, which are used to treat Parkinson’s Disease
- Water pills, also known as diuretics, which increase the risk of dehydration
Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure
Lower blood pressure decreases the flow of blood around the body. This often results in blood struggling to reach the brain. As a result, the most obvious symptoms of low blood pressure tend to link to brain function. Someone whose blood pressure is too low may experience:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Blurred vision
If someone is experiencing these symptoms, they should get their blood pressure checked as soon as possible. Low blood pressure could also be a sign of underlying health conditions, such as those outlined above. However, it is usually nothing to worry about unless it occurs regularly.
When blood pressure reaches an extreme low, it can cause a person to go into shock. Shock can be life-threatening. Symptoms include:
- Cold, clammy skin
- Pale skin
- Fast, shallow breathing
- Weak but rapid pulse
If someone is experiencing shock, they need medical attention immediately.
Low Blood Pressure Complications
As well as shock, low blood pressure can cause other complications. Generally, these complications will be as a result of another symptom. For example, weakness, dizziness, or fainting could result in injury from a fall.
More serious complications will be more likely to be caused by prolonged low blood pressure. When blood pressure is low, it reduces the flow of oxygenated blood around the body. A lack of blood to organs such as the heart and brain can lead to long-term damage.
Treating Low Blood Pressure
In most cases, low blood pressure does not require any treatment. The body will likely correct your blood pressure on its own. As you go through your day, food and activity can impact your blood pressure. Usually, your blood pressure will increase.
However, if your blood pressure remains low, you may need to take steps to increase your blood pressure. One of the best ways to do this is to drink more water. As mentioned earlier in this article, dehydration can contribute to lower blood pressure. This is because water increases our blood volume. Higher blood volume means higher blood pressure.
Eating regular meals will also have an impact on blood pressure. People who do not eat at mealtimes are more likely to develop low blood pressure.
If you are experiencing sustained low blood pressure, you may want to increase your salt intake. Usually, it is recommended that people reduce their salt intake, as it can cause a sudden increase in blood pressure. If you are considering increasing your salt intake to raise your blood pressure, you should consult your doctor.
Another option for treating lower blood pressure is to wear compression stockings. Though commonly used to treat varicose veins, compression stockings also improve blood flow. This can help to raise blood pressure to normal levels.
In some cases, doctors may also prescribe medication. Most of this medication is intended to treat orthostatic hypotension – low blood pressure when standing up.
Staying Safe with Low Blood Pressure
If you have a health condition, it is important to look out for your wellbeing. Personal alarms from Careline365 offer peace of mind to elderly and vulnerable people across the country. If you have low blood pressure and are worried about needing help after a fall, a Careline365 alarm could provide additional reassurance.
The alarm is activated by the simple press of a button. This sends an alert to our professional Care Team, who assess the situation and arrange help on your behalf. They will inform your emergency contacts and, if necessary, the emergency services.
To find out more about the Careline365 personal alarm service, check out our detailed guide. Order your alarm online today, or call our friendly team on 0800 101 3333 and they will answer any questions you have about the service.