What Procedures And Tests Diagnose Low Blood Pressure
In some people, particularly relatively healthy ones, symptoms of weakness, dizziness, and fainting raise the suspicion of low blood pressure. In others, an event often associated with low blood pressure, for example, a heart attack, has occurred to cause the symptoms.
Measuring blood pressure in both the lying and standing positions usually is the first step in diagnosing low blood pressure. In patients with symptomatic low blood pressure, there often is a marked drop in blood pressure upon standing, and patients may even develop orthostatic symptoms. The heart rate often increases. The goal is to identify the cause of the low blood pressure. Sometimes the causes are readily apparent . At other times, the cause may be identified by testing:
What Medications/treatments Are Used
Treating hypotension directly usually happens in one of three ways:
- Increasing blood volume. This method, also known as fluid resuscitation, involves infusing fluids into your blood. Examples of this include intravenous fluids, plasma or blood transfusions.
- Making blood vessels constrict. Just as there are medications that lower your blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels in your body, there are also medications that have the opposite effect.
- Change how your body handles fluids. Your kidneys are responsible for maintaining the fluid balance in your body. Certain medications can make your kidneys keep fluid and salt in your body, which can help with low blood pressure.
Complications/side effects of the treatment
The complications of either treatment depend on the exact medication or treatment you receive. Your healthcare provider can best explain the possible complications or side effects. Thats because they can consider your specific circumstances, including other health conditions, medications you take and more.
Postural Or Orthostatic Hypotension
Postural or orthostatic hypotension occurs when your blood pressure falls after a sudden movement. For example, you may feel dizzy or faint after changing posture, such as sitting up from a lying position, or standing up from a sitting position. This may cause you to lose your balance and fall over. You may also feel light-headed, have blurred vision, or lose consciousness.
The symptoms of postural or orthostatic hypotension should only last a few minutes as your blood pressure adjusts to your new position. This type of low blood pressure tends to affect people more as they get older when it can lead to more frequent falls. Similar symptoms may also occur after exercise.
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Fast Facts About Salt
- The body needs salt, but too much or too little can cause problems.
- Sodium makes up 40 percent of salt. If a food label lists sodium instead of salt, multiply the answer by 2.5 for an accurate picture of the salt content.
- Most Americans take in too much salt, and 75 percent of it is hidden in processed and packaged food.
- The American Heart Association recommend a maximum intake of no more than 2.3 grams or 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day, or around 1 teaspoon, and preferably no more than 1,500 mg.
The word salt comes from the Latin word sal, meaning salt. It was once a valuable commodity, and it has been used as a currency for trading. The English word salary comes from the word salt.
Salt has long been used for flavoring and for preserving food. It has also been used in tanning, dyeing and bleaching, and the production of pottery, soap, and chlorine. Today, it is widely used in the chemical industry.
It commonly features at the table or in the kitchen as free-flowing table salt, rock salt, sea salt, or kosher salt. High levels of salt, or sodium, come hidden in everyday foods, from fast food to frozen chicken.
The body uses sodium to maintain fluid levels. A balance of fluid and sodium is necessary for the health of the heart, liver, and kidneys. It regulates blood fluids and prevents low blood pressure.
Severe Hypotension Linked To Shock
Shock is an extreme form of hypotension in which blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels. It is a medical emergency, and someone with symptoms of shock needs immediate medical attention. Shock can result from bleeding, major burns, or excessive loss of bodily fluids.
The reason why someone has blood pressure will determine which foods or drinks may be beneficial to consume. A person should speak to their doctor to check.
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Treatment For Low Blood Pressure Depends On The Cause
If a cause can be found, a GP will be able to recommend treatment to ease your symptoms.
For example, they may suggest:
- changing medicines or altering your dose, if this is the cause
- wearing support stockings this can improve circulation and increase blood pressure
Medicine to increase blood pressure is rarely needed because simple lifestyle measures or treating the underlying cause is usually effective.
Understanding Systolic And Diastolic Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is one of the vital signs of life. It is normally expressed as two numbers, the first or the upper number indicating the systolic blood pressure, and the lower number indicating diastolic blood pressure.
Systolic blood pressure represents the pressure exerted by the blood on the arteries when the muscle of the heart contracts and pumps blood through the blood vessels to the rest of the body. This is the maximum pressure exerted by the blood on the arteries.
Diastolic blood pressure refers to the pressure exerted by the blood when the heart is at rest in between contractions. 120/80 mm Hg or a little lower, is considered as an ideal blood pressure for a healthy adult, where 120 mm Hg stands for systolic pressure and 80 mm Hg for diastolic pressure.
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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.
Low Blood Pressure When You Stand Up
Sometimes, changes in your posture can cause your blood pressure to drop, for example, going from sitting or lying down to standing up. You might feel the symptoms listed above when you stand up, such as feeling dizzy or faint. They will pass quickly as your body adjusts, but can put you at risk of falls.
This is called postural hypotension or orthostatic hypotension. Its caused by changes to your arteries which happen as you get older and if youre taking medications to lower your blood pressure.
The animation below provides information on the causes, symptoms and potential interventions related to orthostatic hypotension.
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Low Blood Pressure Also Known As Hypotension Is When You Have A Blood Pressure Level That Is Below The Normal Range
If your blood pressure is naturally low, this probably wont cause you any problems and wont need treating. In fact, the lower your blood pressure, the lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Low blood pressure can sometimes be caused by medications or can be a sign of another health problem. This can sometimes cause problems such as falls, fainting and feeling dizzy, so it might need looking into and treating. Speak to your doctor or nurse if youre worried about low blood pressure.
Plus, take a look at the animation below on how to manage low blood pressure when you stand up.
How Is It Treated And Can It Be Cured
Treating hypotension usually starts with finding out why its happening. If that cause is treatable directly, hypotension will usually get better on its own. An example of this is hypotension that happens because of an injury and blood loss. Repairing that injury and replacing the lost blood will stop hypotension as long as the repair to the injury holds. If you take medications that affect your blood pressure, your healthcare provider may change your dosage or have you stop taking that medication entirely.
If the cause remains a mystery, its also possible to treat it directly. However, curing hypotension is only possible if theres an underlying cause thats curable.
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Foods And Drinks Containing Caffeine
Foods and beverages containing caffeine may cause a rise in blood pressure. However, studies into the effects of caffeine on blood pressure are inconclusive. suggests that coffee temporarily raises blood pressure only in people who do not drink it regularly.
Other foods and drinks that contain caffeine include chocolate, tea, cocoa, and some sodas and energy drinks.
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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Medications That Can Cause Low Blood Pressure
Medications might also cause your blood pressure to become too low.
If a medication youre taking causes your blood pressure to become too low, your doctor may adjust the dosage or change the medication. This usually improves the hypotension.
Hypotension doesnt always cause symptoms. But sometimes low blood pressure means your vital organs arent receiving as much blood flow as they need. If this happens, you might feel tired or unwell. Symptoms of hypotension may include:
- fatigue, an all-around sense of tiredness or lacking energy
- lightheadedness, or feeling like you might faint
- dizziness, feeling off-balance when you get up from a reclined or seated position, or while youre standing
- nausea, a sense of discomfort in your stomach and feeling like you want to vomit
- clammy skin, when you feel damp or sweaty to the touch
- depression, persistent feelings such as sadness or low mood that interfere with your daily activities
Your treatment plan will depend on whats causing your hypotension. Your doctor will consider factors including:
- the type of hypotension youre experiencing
- the situations that may be causing hypotension for you
For some people, low blood pressure may not cause any symptoms. In cases where treatment is needed, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, medical treatment, or a combination of both.
Low Diastolic Pressure: No Symptoms
“When your systolic blood pressure gets too low, it can manifest as lightheadedness, fainting, and weakness. But low diastolic pressure by itself doesn’t have any symptoms,” says Dr. Paul Conlin, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and chief of medicine at the VA Boston Healthcare System.
One of the new studies, which analyzed the medical records of more than 11,000 adults over a period of three decades, found that people who had low diastolic blood pressure were twice as likely to have subtle evidence of heart damage compared with people whose diastolic blood pressure was 80 to 89 mm Hg. Low diastolic values were also linked to a higher risk of heart disease and death from any cause. The findings appeared in the Aug. 30, 2016, Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Another study, published in The Lancet, involved more than 22,000 people with heart disease, whom researchers grouped according to their blood pressure readings. People with well-controlled blood pressure values were considered the reference group.
Not surprisingly, people with high systolic blood pressure were more likely to experience heart attacks or strokes, be hospitalized with heart failure, or to die compared with people in the reference group. But the same was true for heart attacks, heart failure, and death in people with low blood pressure .
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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.
What Is Low Blood Pressure
“Low blood pressure should not be defined by a number per se, but rather the level below which symptoms occur for a given person,” says Fertig. “Lightheadedness and dizziness while standing are the most suggestive symptoms of low blood pressure. At more severe levels, confusion and even loss of consciousness may occur. Symptoms may be worse after eating because circulation is directed to the gut, further compromising blood flow to the brain. At very low blood pressures there may be insufficient blood supply to other tissues in the body, such as the kidney, impairing function, or the heart, causing chest pain.”
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Five Things To Know About Sudden Fall In Blood Pressure And Aging
This is a summary of a letter to the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society published by ICORD researchers from the Department of Medicine at the University of British Columbia. The intention is to make physicians aware of sudden changing in blood pressure in elderly patients.
Original letter to the editor: Mills P, Gray D, Krassioukov A. Five things to know about orthostatic hypotension and aging. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 62, 1822-3. Find the original article here.
Five things to know about sudden fall in blood pressure and aging:
1. Orthostatic hypotension is itself a risk factor in elderly adults, and can cause accidents.
Doctors should identify elderly adults who are at risk of this condition. It can lead to falls, fractures and head injuries. Recent studies suggest the condition can affect the normal functioning of the brain.
2. Orthostatic hypotension can manifest in different ways.
The fall in blood pressure usually happens during or shortly after standing, but can happen even after three minutes following a change in body position. This delayed fall in blood pressure may escape detection during a visit to the doctor. It is important for doctors to know how the fall in blood pressure manifests if it is sudden or delayed, especially when screening high-risk patients.
3. Orthostatic hypotension occurs more often with aging. The risk is higher for those taking medication and those with conditions affecting the nervous system.
If You Notice A Sudden Decline In Blood Pressure
A single lower-than-normal reading is not cause for alarm, unless you are experiencing any other symptoms or problems. If you experience any dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea or other symptoms, its a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider. To help with your diagnosis, keep a record of your symptoms and activities at the time they occurred.
Is low blood pressure related to low heart rate? Find out.
Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.
Last Reviewed: Oct 31, 2016
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Diastolic Blood Pressure: How Low Is Too Low
Blood pressure consists of two numbers. Systolic pressure, the force exerted on blood vessels when the heart beats, is the upper number. Diastolic pressure, the force exerted when the heart is at rest, is on the bottom in more ways than one. Systolic pressure attracts the lions share of attention from physicians and patients, says UAB cardiologist Jason Guichard, M.D., Ph.D.
Physicians are busy people, and like it or not they often focus on a single number, Guichard said. Systolic blood pressure is the focus, and diastolic pressure is almost completely ignored. That is a mistake, he argues. The majority of your arteries feed your organs during systole. But your coronary arteries are different they are surrounding the aortic valve, so they get blood only when the aortic valve closes and that happens in diastole.
Diastolic pressure has been getting more attention lately, however, thanks in part to an influential paper in Hypertension, written in 2011 by Guichard and Ali Ahmed, M.D., then a professor of medicine in UABs Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics and Palliative Care and now the associate chief of staff for Health and Aging at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C.
Most people are trying to lower their blood pressure. What would you define as too low, and why is that a problem?