Generally, people suffer from high blood pressure as compared to low blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension causes heart attacks and strokes. Thus, high blood pressure is considered as a major risk factor for health. In contrast, in most cases low blood pressure or hypotension does not cause serious health problems and is regarded as normal. However, some conditions which lead to low blood pressure can be life threatening.
What is Considered as Low Blood Pressure?
Our circulatory system consists of heart and its blood vessels, the arteries and the veins. The heart functions as a pumping machine. It pumps blood into the arteries which take it to the different parts of the body. As blood flows, it exerts pressure (or force) on the walls of the arteries. This is called blood pressure. Ideally, the normal blood pressure is little lower than 120/80mm of Hg.
The upper number represents systolic pressure. It is the pressure exerted when the heart contracts and pumps blood into the arteries. Its value ranges from 90-120 mm of Hg.
The lower number represents the diastolic pressure presenting when the heart relaxes between the beats and its value ranges from 60-80 mm of Hg.
Deviation of the blood pressure number from this normal range for many weeks causes concern. This deviation may be an increase or decrease in normal blood pressure as:
- High blood pressure means value is as high as 140/90 mm Hg. It implies that the blood exerts more pressure on walls of arteries for which the heart has to put more efforts to pump the blood. This poses risk to the heart in form of heart attack and stroke to the brain.
- Low blood pressure means the value is lower than 90/60 mm of Hg. It implies that less amount of blood is circulated in the blood vessels due to which the brain and other organs receive inadequate supply of blood. In majority of cases, low blood pressure does not cause any harm. Some people have it regularly and are without problems. Low blood pressure is considered good since it reduces chances of heart problems. However, in some cases it may be associated with symptoms such as dizziness, loss of consciousness, weakness, tiredness and pale colored skin. In such cases it needs to be checked by a doctor. Further, a sudden and severely low blood pressure is not good for the body. It is associated with the perilous situation wherein the body has inadequate levels of oxygen to perform its functions and affects working of the heart and the brain. In rare cases, it may results in unconsciousness or shock to the organs due to which they stop working either temporarily or permanently.
Causes of Low Blood Pressure
Some common causes for low blood pressure include old age, pregnancy and some have inherited it. Medical conditions which cause low pressure include:
- Taking of over the counter (OTC) medicines
- Drugs for hypertension, depression and Parkinson’s disease
- Blood vessels suffer from abnormal of widening and dilating
- Hormonal imbalances due to hypothyroidism, diabetes or due to low blood sugar
- Mild dehydration
- Eating inadequate amount of food
- Deficiency of vitamin B12 and folate
- Excessive consumption of alcohol.
At times there is a sudden drop in blood pressure, which may be life threatening. It may be caused by the following:
- Dehydration leads to decrease in body water. It may be caused due to severe vomiting and diarrhea, urinary tract infection, burns and heat stroke.
- Blood loss caused due to serious accident or trauma leads to decrease in volume of blood
- Allergic reactions cause an irregular heartbeat
- Infection which is very severe leads to septic shock (internal bleeding of the blood vessels)
- Heart problems such as abnormal heart rhythms (bradycardia), tachycardia, heart value problems, heart attack and heart failure.
What To Do For Low Blood Pressure?
When the cause is known, the exact remedy can be started to treat low blood pressure as follows:
- If certain medicines are causing low blood pressure then the doctor will either stop them or change the medicine.
- Mild dehydration can be treated at home by drinking electrolyte solution. While in case of severe dehydration, immediate hospitalization is required to deliver fluids and electrolytes intravenously.
- Blood loss and septic shock both are treated with hospitalization where the fluids and electrolytes are delivered. In case of septic shock antibiotic treatment is also given.
- If bradycardia is caused due to medicines, then the doctor will stop or alter the medicine. When bradycardia is caused due to heart block, then it is treated with implantable pacemaker.
- Treatment for tachycardia depends on its nature. When it is atrial fibrillation, it is treated with oral medicines, electrical cardioversion or pulmonary vein isolation. In case of ventricular tachycardia, it is controlled with medicines or implantable defibrillator.
- Blood thinners (heparin or oral warfarin) are used to treat pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis.
- Pericarditis causes accumulation of pericardial fluid. It is removed by a procedure called pericardiocentesis.
- Orthostatic (postural) hypotension is treated with drugs fludrocortisone and midodrine.
- Low blood pressure which occurs after lunch, is treated with drug ibuprofen or indomethacin.
- Drugs such as beta blockers and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors are used to treat vasovagal syncope.
- When patient does not respond to drug therapy for heart problems, then a pacemaker is used.
Along with drug therapy certain lifestyle changes need to be made. The following remedies may be helpful to ease the low blood pressure symptoms:
Modifications in the diet include –
- To include moderate amounts of salt in the diet.
- To take small but frequent meals with reduced high carbohydrate content foods.
- If blood pressure drops due to iron deficiency (anemia), then one should consume legumes and lean red meat.
- Intake of vitamin B12 and folate in the diet will help to overcome its deficiency.
- To prevent dehydration one should drink plenty of water and fluids.
- To avoid alcohol consumption and late night drinks.
- To consume moderate amount of caffeine.
Following some traditional remedies such drinking beetroot juice, carrot juice, ginger or ginseng tea, and eating holy basil leaves.
Posture modifications to manage low blood pressure include –
- One should be careful about body positions especially for people who suffer from postural or orthostatic hypotension.
- Postures should not be changed suddenly. One should get up slowly after lying down and sitting position.
- Patients who suffer from neutrally mediated hypotension should avoid standing continuously at one place.
- Avoid sitting crossed leg for prolong time.
- While getting up, one should sit upright on the bed for few minutes before standing.
- The head of the bed should be elevated which will help to raise the person’s head.
- One must perform light physical exercises which allow proper blood flow in the body.
- Lifting of heavy material should be avoided.
- One should avoid being in hot environments and hot water baths if blood pressure drops more often.
- Wear tight fitting elastic support stockings to increase blood flow to the upper body.
Low blood pressure is good till it does not show any symptoms. Once the signs and symptoms are noticed, it is important to seek medical help to determine the underlying cause and get the right treatment. In order to maintain appropriate blood pressure, it is necessary to make lifestyle changes.
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