Improving Health With Current Research
Learn about the following ways the NHLBI continues to translate current research into improved health for people with abnormally low blood pressure. Research on this topic is part of the NHLBIs broader commitment to advancing heart and vascular disease scientific discovery.
- Testing Treatments for Cardiac Arrest and Trauma. The Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium clinical trial network tested treatments to address high morbidity and mortality rates from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest and severe traumatic injury. ROC investigators compared different strategies for supplemental fluids in trauma patients who have low blood pressure. Other ROC studies found a link between low blood pressure readings and the need for emergency procedures.
- Understanding How Low Blood Pressure Affects Diverse Populations. NHLBI-supported researchers are studying low blood pressure in different populations. Investigators in the NHLBIs Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study found that people who have low blood pressure when standing up, known as orthostatic hypotension, are at higher risk for stroke. In a follow-up study of NHLBIs Honolulu Heart Program, researchers found older Japanese men who had orthostatic hypotension were nearly twice as likely to die within the next four years as those who did not have orthostatic hypotension. NHLBIs Cardiovascular Health Study found that orthostatic hypotension was common in older adults, increases with age, and is linked to cardiovascular diseases.
What Do Blood Pressure Readings Mean
Blood pressure is measure in millimeters of mercury and recorded as two numbers, systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the top number , which measure the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, so when its muscles contract. Diastolic the bottom number , which measures the pressure in the arteries between heart beats, so when the muscles relax and refill with blood.
The blood pressure chart reflects the categories defined by the American Heart Association. A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. If your blood pressure numbers are between 120/80 and 139/89, you have pre-hypertension, which means that you are likely to develop high blood pressure. If your blood pressure numbers are 140/90 or above, you have high blood pressure. For instance, if your systolic blood pressure is between 140 and 159, and your diastolic blood pressure is between 90 and 99, you have Stage 1 Hypertension. You have Stage 2 Hypertension if your systolic blood pressure is over 160 and you diastolic blood pressure is over 100. If your numbers are higher than that, you are in hypertensive crisis and need emergency care.
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What Are Treatments For Low Blood Pressure
According to Dr. Laffin, If you’re underweight, working to healthfully increase your weight and muscle mass will help to increase your blood pressure.
Dr. Laffin also recommends the following:
- Hydrate often to prevent dehydration. When youre dehydrated, your blood volume drops and, as a result, so does your blood pressure. Drinking adequate fluids increases the volume of your blood. Remember to drink before youre thirsty, which is often a sign that you’re already dehydrated.
- Eat multiple small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. This prevents too much blood flowing to your gut to aid in digestion.
- Get up from a seated or lying position gradually rather than bolting upright.
- Take blood pressure lowering medications at night. Most BP medications last 24-hours, but the peak effect occurs two to three hours after we take them. If taken at night, this will be while youre sleeping and help you to avoid your blood pressure getting too low while you’re awake.
- Avoid very hot showers or visiting saunas, hot tubs, or steam rooms. They dilate blood vessels, causing blood pressure to drop.
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Living With Low Blood Pressure
Medicines and lifestyle changes can help you live safely with chronic low blood pressure. Your doctor can recommend steps you can take to manage your low blood pressure. These actions can help control the condition:
Drink more water. This can help avoid dehydration.
Medicines and lifestyle changes can help you live safely with chronic low blood pressure.
Avoid alcohol. Alcoholic beverages are dehydrating, and alcohol changes how medicines work in your body.
Slow down. Take your time when standing up. If lying down, sit up first. Then wiggle your feet and move your legs. This will increase circulation and get your heart rate up so that you dont feel lightheaded when you stand up.
If your medicine and lifestyle changes do not reduce your low blood pressure symptoms, talk with your doctor about other changes you can make.
How Is An Unusual Map Treated
An unusual MAP is usually a sign of an underlying condition or problem in the body, so the treatment depends on the cause. causes may include heart conditions, Sepsis, stroke, internal bleeding, and more.
For a low MAP, treatment may focus on safely raising blood pressure quickly to avoid organ damage. This is usually done with:
- intravenous fluids or blood transfusions to increase blood flow
- medications called vasopressors that tighten blood vessels, which can increase blood pressure and make the heart beat faster or pump harder
Depending on the cause, treating a high MAP may also require quick action, in this case, to reduce overall blood pressure. This can be done with oral or intravenous nitroglycerin . This medication helps to relax and widen blood vessels, making it easier for blood to reach the heart.
Once the blood pressure is under control, the doctor can continue treating the underlying cause. This may involve:
- breaking up a stroke-causing blood clot
- inserting a stent into a coronary artery to keep it open
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What Is Systolic Blood Pressure
During a heartbeat, the heart is pushing blood out into the arteries. Doctors call this systole, and thats why its called the systolic blood pressure. Its the pressure during a heartbeat and the highest pressure measured.
When the reading is 120 mmHg or a little below while a person is sitting quietly at rest, the systolic blood pressure is considered normal.
Heart Tissue Damage And Heart Disease
Researchers have found a link between low diastolic blood pressure and heart damage.A 2016 study that lasted more than 3 decades and involved more than 11,000 people found that a diastolic blood pressure below 60 mm Hg is dangerous.People with this level are 50 percent more likely to have heart damage. This is compared with those who have a low diastolic pressure level between 80 and 89 mm Hg.Heart disease is another concern. The same study found that those with low diastolic blood pressure were 49 percent more likely to develop heart disease.
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Which Blood Pressure Number Is Important
Q.When I am monitoring my blood pressure, which number is most important top, bottom, or both?
A. While both numbers in a blood pressure reading are essential for diagnosing and treating high blood pressure, doctors primarily focus on the top number, also known as systolic pressure.
Systolic pressure reflects the force produced by the heart when it pumps blood out to the body, while diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in your blood vessels when the heart is at rest.
Over the years, research has found that both numbers are equally important in monitoring heart health. However, most studies show a greater risk of stroke and heart disease related to higher systolic pressures compared with elevated diastolic pressures. Thats especially true in people ages 50 and older, which is why doctors tend to monitor the top number more closely. The reason for the difference in risk may be related to the force put on the arteries when blood rushes out of the heart.
The American Heart Association now defines high blood pressure as 130/80 mm Hg or higher. The new guidelines recommend you check your blood pressure often, ideally with a home monitor, to help your doctor determine if you need to make lifestyle changes, begin medication, or alter your current therapy.
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How Is Low Blood Pressure Diagnosed
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and take your blood pressure by placing a blood pressure cuff around your upper arm. The cuff will tighten on your arm, and the monitor will measure your systolic and diastolic pressure. A blood pressure reading of 90/60 mm Hg is considered low blood pressure.
Low blood pressure may be a sign of an underlying condition, so your doctor will try to determine what caused your blood pressure to drop. Depending on your medical history and symptoms, your doctor may also check your heart using an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, or stress test. Your doctor may also perform blood tests to check for:
- Hormonal imbalances.
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When Is This Combo Not A Big Deal
Sometimes blood pressure and high heart rate occurs momentarily. For example, Dr. Taigen explains, when we stand up:
However, that phenomenon is short-lived. When the heart rate stays consistently high while blood pressure is low, there may be something problematic going on.
Does This Really Matter If Youve Finally Got Low Blood Pressure
Heart rhythm problems that affect the upper heart chamber can put you at an increased risk for stroke, heart failure or death. Heres why:
If youre diagnosed with an irregular heart rhythm, you may need to take blood-thinning medications, plus one of the treatments above, to decrease your risk of stroke. Your doctor can help you get the right care to keep everything steady and stable so the only time your heart is racing is while youre watching Stranger Things.
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Serious Injuries And Shock
Low blood pressure can also be caused by serious injuries or burns, particularly if you have lost a lot of blood. This can mean that there is less blood being pumped around your body. Low blood pressure can also occur if you go into shock after having a serious injury.
Other kinds of shock are described below.
Anaphylactic shock, or anaphylaxis, is caused by an allergic reaction to something – for example, a wasp sting or a peanut. During an allergic reaction, your body produces a large amount of a chemical called histamine, which causes your blood vessels to widen and leads to a sudden, severe drop in blood pressure.
Cardiogenic shock occurs when your heart cannot supply enough blood to your body, so your blood pressure drops. This can happen during a heart attack.
What Is Mean Arterial Pressure
Automatic blood pressure monitors give you a systolic and diastolic blood pressure reading. Many of them also include a small number in parentheses underneath or beside your standard blood pressure reading. This number in parentheses is the mean arterial pressure .
MAP is a calculation that doctors use to check whether theres enough blood flow to supply blood to all your major organs. Too much resistance and pressure may impede that flow.
Resistance refers to the way the width of a blood vessel impacts blood flow. For example, its harder for blood to flow through a narrow artery. As resistance in your arteries increases, blood pressure also increases while the flow of blood decreases.
You can also think of MAP as the average pressure in your arteries throughout one cardiac cycle, which includes the series of events that happen every time your heart beats.
Keep reading to learn more about the normal, high, and low ranges of MAP and what they mean.
In some cases, in the hospital, a doctor may place a central line in a person and use that to determine the values of cardiac output, central venous pressure, and systemic vascular resistance. They may then use these other values to calculate a persons MAP. However, an actual calculation is not always necessary as there is typically a machine that also provides the MAP reading automatically.
You can also calculate a MAP value automatically here.
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How Can You Manage Your High Blood Pressure
Treatment of high blood pressure often starts with lifestyle changes, including decreasing salt in your diet, losing weight if necessary, stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol use, and regular exercise.
In addition to lifestyle changes, medications are often used to lower blood pressure. There are several types of medications that treat high blood pressure with each type of medication having benefits and risks that should be carefully weighed by you and your health care provider. Most people take more than one medication in order to bring their blood pressure down to their treatment goal.
Your blood pressure medication should begin to work within days. However, because high blood pressure is a long-lasting medical condition that often has little or no symptoms, remembering to take your medications can be a challenge. Combination medicines, long-acting or once-a-day medications, may be used to decrease the burden of taking numerous medications and help ensure medications regularly. Once started, the medication should be used until your doctor tells you to stop.
Controlling your blood pressure should be part of a healthy living plan and lifelong task. The damage that high blood pressure causes your internal organs does not cause any symptoms until serious damage has been done.
What If Lifestyle Changes Dont Help Lower My Blood Pressure
If diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes dont work to lower your blood pressure, your healthcare provider prescribe hypertension medications. Your provider will take into account these drugs effect on other conditions you may have, such as heart or kidney disease, and other drugs youre taking.
You might need to take hypertension medicine from now on. Be sure to follow your providers dosing directions exactly.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/20/2020.
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What Can You Do To Help Relieve Symptoms Of Low Blood Pressure
Depending on the type of low blood pressure you have, you may be able to relieve some of your symptoms by:
- Eating a healthy diet with fewer carbohydrates and smaller meals.
- Drinking more water and avoiding alcohol.
- Getting up slowly after youve been sitting or lying down.
- Focusing on breathing a few times before you change position.
- Wearing compression stockings.
Monitoring And Controlling Blood Pressure
Baroreceptors are specialized cells located within arteries that act as blood pressure sensors. Those in the large arteries of the neck and chest are particularly important. When baroreceptors detect a change in blood pressure, they trigger the body to react to maintain a steady blood pressure. Nerves carry signals from these sensors and the brain to
The heart, which is signaled to change the rate and force of heartbeats . This change is one of the first, and it corrects low blood pressure quickly.
The arterioles, which are signaled to constrict or dilate .
The veins, which are signaled to constrict or dilate .
The kidneys, which are signaled to change the amount of fluid excreted and to change the amount of hormones that they produce . This change takes a long time to produce results and thus is the slowest mechanism for how the body controls blood pressure.
Nonetheless, the ways that the body can monitor and control blood pressure have limitations. For example, if a person loses a lot of blood quickly, the body cannot compensate quickly enough, blood pressure falls, and organs may begin to malfunction .
In addition, as people age, the body responds to changes in blood pressure more slowly.
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