Low blood pressure – the unknown threat?

How Low Can You Go?

When blood pressure comes up as a topic of conversation, it’s usually high blood pressure that gets all the attention. But did you know that low blood pressure can also be a health issue? Most people who have low blood pressure, or hypotension, aren’t even aware of it and it never causes any problems. However, drastically low blood pressure can be a cause for concern.

Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Anything over that is labeled as high blood pressure. Anything under 90/60 is low blood pressure. Oddly enough, there’s no specific number at which day-to-day blood pressure is considered too low. According to the American Heart Association, “Most doctors consider chronically low blood pressure dangerous only if it causes noticeable signs and symptoms.”

Seeing the Signs

Symptoms of low blood pressure can also be indicators of other, more serious health conditions; therefore, it’s always best to check with a healthcare provider if in doubt. The health gurus at the Mayo Clinic list the following symptoms of low blood pressure:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Lack of concentration
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Thirst

If you consistently have low blood pressure when visiting your doctor, they’ll most likely continue to monitor you during your routine visits. If you’re experiencing any of the above-mentioned symptoms, it’s helpful to keep a record of them to discuss during your next visit.

What Are Some Causes of Low Blood Pressure?

Now that you know some signs and symptoms to look for, let’s take a look at some possible causes of low blood pressure. As you can see, most are situational or temporary. They include:

  • Standing up too quickly after sitting for a long period of time
  • Pregnancy
  • Decreases in blood volume due to major trauma, dehydration, or internal bleeding
  • Certain medications including diuretics, high blood pressure medications, some antidepressants, and erectile dysfunction drugs
  • Heart problems such as low heart rate, faulty heart valves, heart attack, and heart failure
  • Endocrine problems such as an under-active thyroid, Addison’s disease, low blood sugar, and diabetes
  • Severe infection (septic shock)
  • Allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
  • Nutritional deficiencies – a lack of B-12, iron, and folic acid can cause anemia, which can lead to low blood pressure

What Can I Do?

If you have low blood pressure that isn’t causing you any symptoms, you don’t really have to do anything. However, there are some simple things you can do on your own if you want to reduce or even prevent symptoms. They include:

  • Drink more water. Increasing your fluid intake increases your blood volume, which helps to raise blood pressure.
  • Follow a healthy diet. Make sure you’re getting the nutrients you need by focusing on a variety of foods like whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean chicken and fish. You can also take vitamins or supplements, but it’s best to get vitamins from your food.
  • Take it easy when changing body positions. When standing after a long period of sitting, rise slowly, giving your body time to adjust to the change in position.

Remember, signs and symptoms of low blood pressure can have different causes and can mimic symptoms of other medical issues and diseases. If you have any concerns regarding your health, you should speak with a medical professional.