Low Systolic Blood Pressure
Having low blood pressure is usually something everyone strives for. But when your systolic blood pressure gets too low, it can cause dizziness and fainting, and in some cases, can even be life threatening. If youve recently had your blood pressure checked and your systolic number was low, you might be wondering what it means and what you can do about it.
What Is Low Blood Pressure
Hypotension is the medical term for low blood pressure .
A blood pressure reading appears as two numbers. The first and higher of the two is a measure of systolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and fills them with blood. The second number measures diastolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.
Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 . In healthy people, low blood pressure without any symptoms is not usually a concern and does not need to be treated. But low blood pressure can be a sign of an underlying problem — especially in the elderly — where it may cause inadequate blood flow to the heart, brain, and other vital organs.
Chronic low blood pressure with no symptoms is almost never serious. But health problems can occur when blood pressure drops suddenly and the brain is deprived of an adequate blood supply. This can lead to dizziness or lightheadedness. Sudden drops in blood pressure most commonly occur in someone who’s rising from a lying down or sitting position to standing. This kind of low blood pressure is known as postural hypotension or orthostatic hypotension. Another type of low blood pressure can occur when someone stands for a long period of time. This is called neurally mediated hypotension.
New Findings Focus On Diastolic Blood Pressurethe Second Number In Your Blood Pressure Reading
Of the two numbers that make up your blood pressure reading, the first one typically gets more attention. Thats because as people age, their arteries lose their elasticity, and the inner walls are more likely to accumulate cholesterol-laden plaque. These factors tend to raise systolic blood pressure, a measure of the pressure inside the arteries when the heart contracts to pump blood throughout the body.
Current guidelines suggest that most people should aim for a systolic blood pressure reading of 140 millimeters of mercury or lower. But last year, a widely publicized clinical trial suggested that a target of 120 mm Hg could further reduce the dangers associated with high blood pressure .
Yet reaching that lower target required an average of three blood pressure medications, which resulted in more side effects. Now, two recent observational studies highlight some concerns about blood pressure thats too low, particularly with regard to diastolic blood pressure. Diastolic blood pressure represents the pressure between beats when the heart relaxes.
What Exactly Is Low Blood Pressure
Normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mmHg. When the pressure in your heart drops below 90mmHg systolic and 60mmHg diastolic then youre considered to have low blood pressure.
However, as Gabriel Eksteen, dietitian and exercise physiologist at the Heart and Stroke Foundation South Africa points out, these numbers dont necessarily mean you should be alarmed. Remember that blood pressure readings can be affected by the time of day, your stress levels, exercise and your fitness levels, temperature, and the last meal you had, says Eksteen.
In the same way high blood pressure can be an indication of heart problems, so too can low blood blood pressure. Due to the fact that low blood pressure means that less oxygen gets transported through your veins, chronic low blood pressure can also lead to neurological problems when the brain is starved of much-needed oxygen.
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.
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What Does A Blood Pressure Reading Look Like
When you have your blood pressure measured, you will be given two numbers, a top number and a bottom number.
- Systolic blood pressure. This is the first, or top, number. This is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats, forcing blood around your body.
- Diastolic blood pressure. The second number, or bottom number, is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury . If the first number is 120 and the second number is 80, this would be written as 120/80mmHg, and youd call it 120 over 80.
This video explains more about systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Treatment For Low Blood Pressure
Having low blood pressure is not always an immediate cause for concern. Many people with low blood pressure are unaware that they have it. Doctors may only consider treatment for low blood pressure if it causes troubling symptoms.
People who experience temporary symptoms of low blood pressure, such as lightheadedness or increased heart rate after standing up too quickly, should sit down to rest until the symptoms subside.
People who frequently experience these symptoms must take great care when moving from a prone position to standing to avoid falling.
If a medication causes symptoms of low blood pressure, doctors may recommend switching medications or lowering a dosage. A person should only change their medication under the guidance of a doctor.
The note that some people may not need treatment for low blood pressure at all. However, for those that do, possible treatments may include:
- drinking water to avoid dehydration
- taking medications to raise the blood pressure
- changing eating habits
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How Is Blood Pressure Generated
The left lower chamber of the heart receives oxygenated blood from the lungs and pumps it throughout the body. The heart fills with blood between heartbeats. This phase in the heart cycle is called diastole. When the heart pumps to push blood throughout the arteries, this phase is called systole. You can place your fingers on your neck or the inside of your wrist to detect your heartbeat. The pulse you feel is the contraction of the hearts left ventricle.
Changing The Body’s Position
Blood pressure can vary throughout the body due to the direct action of gravity. When a person is standing, blood pressure is higher in the legs than in the head, much in the way that the water pressure at the bottom of a swimming pool is higher than that at the top. When a person lies down, blood pressure tends to be more equal throughout the body.
When a person stands up, blood from the veins in the legs has a harder time getting back to the heart. As a result, the heart has less blood to pump out, and blood pressure may temporarily drop throughout the body. When a person sits down or lies down, blood can more easily return to the heart, and cardiac output and blood pressure may increase. Elevating the legs above the level of the heart can increase return of blood to the heart, which increases cardiac output and raises blood pressure.
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What Do The Readings Mean
As a general guide:
140/90mmHg or over you may have high blood pressureMost doctors use 140/90mmHg as the cut off for point for diagnosing high blood pressure . This is the point where your risk of serious health problems goes up. They might prescribe medications and advise you to make changes to your lifestyle to bring your blood pressure down. 120/80mmHg up to 140/90mmHg pre-high blood pressureAlso called high-normal blood pressure. This is not high blood pressure, but it is a little higher than it should be and means you could go on to develop high blood pressure. See how you can make healthy changes to your lifestyle to lower it. 90/60mmHg up to 120/80mmHg ideal blood pressureAlso called normal blood pressure. Your blood pressure reading is healthy. At this level you have a much lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Following a healthy lifestyle will help you to keep it in the healthy range. 90/60mmHg or lower you may have low blood pressureLow blood pressure usually isnt a problem, but it can sometimes make you feel faint or dizzy or could be a sign of another health problem.
The video below explains how your blood pressure numbers are linked to the risk of stroke and other disease.
So What Is Blood Pressure
Your doctor takes your blood pressure at each visit because it’s a key indicator of your health. But beyond a number on your medical chart, how much do you really know about blood pressure at the basic level?
In layman’s terms, your BP is a measure of how hard your blood is pressing on the walls of your arteries as it courses through your body. The top number gauges the pressure when your heart is beating, while the bottom number represents the pressure when your heart is resting between pumps.
A little bit of pressure is good, to help the blood get where it needs to go . But as the saying goes, too much of a good thing isn’t, well, a good thing.
Learn more about blood pressure basics and check out a chart that breaks down healthy vs. unhealthy numbers.
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The Lowdown On Low Blood Pressure
In a healthy person, low blood pressure is a sign of good health as long as the systolic pressure is above 80, explains Dr. Pacold. Very low blood pressure in a person with heart disease could be a sign of heart failure.
One type of low blood pressure that could predict future heart problems is called orthostatic hypotension. In this type of low blood pressure, there is a drop of 10 to 20 points of blood pressure when a person moves from a sitting or supine position to a standing position, Pacold says. It causes a sudden sense of lightheadedness and can be due to a heart that is starting to have trouble compensating.
A recent study on orthostatic hypotension published in the journal Hypertension followed more than 12,000 adults for about 17 years. None of them had heart failure at the start. People who had episodes of orthostatic hypotension during the study period, especially between the ages of 45 to 55, were more likely to develop heart failure by the end.
Treatment For High Pulse
Treatment for high pulse will vary according to a range of factors.
It is helpful to try to identify when the pulse first began to rise. Some episodes of a high pulse may be temporary. For example, if a person develops a high pulse after moving from a prone to a standing position too quickly, the heart might beat more quickly to compensate for gravitys effects.
People who experience bouts of low blood pressure or high pulse while moving from a prone to standing position could try to slow down these movements to help avoid the issue.
Exercising may also lead to a high heart rate, especially if a person is not very fit. This is because the heart may start beating faster even after a person attempts minor exercise.
If a person notices that their heart is beating faster, finding ways to calm the body and brain may help. A person can try slowing down their breathing rate or practicing guided meditations to help them relax and reduce heart rate.
If the heart rate does not go back to normal or if a person is worried, contact a doctor for a full diagnosis.
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Causes Of Low Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure can vary depending on the time of day. It gradually increases throughout the day.
What you’re doing and how you’re feeling can also affect it.
There are many possible causes of low blood pressure. It may be low because you’re fit and healthy, or you may have inherited it from your parents.
Some people develop low blood pressure as they get older.
It can also be caused by:
- being pregnant
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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What Can I Do For Myself
There are other things you can do for yourself to help with your symptoms.
- Wear supportive elastic stockings . They put extra pressure on your legs which helps to improve circulation and raise your blood pressure. For some people this can be enough, but speak to your GP first because they arent suitable for everyone.
- Stand up slowly from sitting or lying down. You can try other simple movements to get the blood flowing before you stand up, such as straightening and bending your legs.
- Avoid standing for long periods of time.
- Drink enough water throughout the day, around 2 litres, so you dont get dehydrated.
- Eat little and often throughout the day. This avoids low blood pressure after eating.
Read more about how .
A Low Reading Could Simply Mean Your Heart Is Healthy Or It Could Mean That Youre At Risk Of Falling Heres How To Tell The Difference
A low blood pressure reading is good news, right? After all, the oppositehigh blood pressurecan lead to heart attack, stroke, vision loss, and other health problems.
Unfortunately, the answer isnt so straightforward.
Sure, you might want to post a reading thats below 120/80 mmHg on your fridge as a boast that your ticker is in good shape. But there is such a thing as a reading thats too low, says Laxmi Mehta, M.D., director of preventative cardiology and womens cardiovascular health at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Abnormally low blood pressure, or hypotension, can be troublesome for some peopleespecially if its causing outward symptoms. If youre feeling dizzy, fatigued, short of breath, or youre passing out, or you have chest pain, that would be concerning, she says.
Heres what you need to know about the possible downsides of low blood pressureand six things you can do if your latest readings have been low.
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How Blood Pressure Is Measured And What The Readings Mean
Blood pressure is expressed as two numbers, with one “over” the other. The first, or top, number is the systolic blood pressure. This indicates the amount of pressure your blood exerts against the walls of your arteries when your heart contracts. The second, or bottom, number is the diastolic pressure, which refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart refills between beats.
Your healthcare provider typically measures your blood pressure using a stethoscope and an inflatable cuff that wraps around your upper arm. The cuff is inflated until it is tight enough to stop the blood from flowing, then it is slowly deflated. Through the stethoscope, your doctor or nurse will hear the whooshing sound of the blood returning this is the systolic pressure. The moment the whooshing sound disappears marks the diastolic pressure.
The commonly accepted ideal blood pressure for adults is 120/80 mm Hg or lower. But since blood pressure naturally rises with age, your BP might be higher than that without any cause for concern. For instance, according to a chart from Disabled World, a normal blood pressure reading for an 80-year-old woman could be 134/84 mm Hg.
So, what is considered low blood pressure in elderly people? Typically, the low blood pressure range is anything below 90/60 mm Hg. This is called hypotension. The Disabled World chart shows that a dangerous blood pressure level is 50/33 mm Hg.