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, it probably won’t cause any problems and won’t need treatment. 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 it can be a sign of another health problem. this can sometimes cause problems such as falls, fainting, and dizziness, so it may need to be checked and treated. talk to your doctor or nurse if you are concerned about low blood pressure.
Also, check out the animation below on how to control low blood pressure when you stand up.
what are the symptoms of low blood pressure?
Low blood pressure often has no symptoms, but it can sometimes mean that not enough blood is flowing to the brain or organs. this can cause symptoms like:
- feeling dizzy, weak, or lightheaded
- feeling unstable
- feel sick (nausea)
- blurred vision
- a general feeling of weakness
- feel confused
- suddenly noticing your heart beating (palpitations)
- Diabetes can affect normal blood pressure control because it can affect hormones and the nerves that go to blood vessels. If the nerves are affected, your blood pressure may drop when you stand up because your blood vessels can’t adjust to the new position quickly enough.
- neurological conditions (conditions that affect the nervous system). For example, Parkinson’s disease. these can affect the autonomic nervous system which controls things our body does without us thinking, including widening and narrowing of blood vessels. if your blood vessels are wider, your blood has more room to flow, so your blood pressure drops. Medications prescribed to treat Parkinson’s can also cause low blood pressure, particularly postural hypotension.
- problems with the adrenal glands. For example, Addison’s disease, an infection, or a tumor. The adrenal glands sit just above the kidneys and produce hormones that help control blood pressure. if they are damaged, this can cause a drop in these hormones and a drop in blood pressure.
- nerve-mediated hypotension. This is when you’ve been on your feet for a long time and your body sends signals to your brain that your blood pressure is high, when in fact it’s too low . then your brain tells your heart to slow down and your blood pressure drops.
- heart problems. Heart problems, such as heart failure or a heart attack, can cause low blood pressure because the heart can’t pump blood around the body as well as it should.
- anemia. This is when the red blood cell count is lower than normal, or the amount of hemoglobin, the part of the blood that carries oxygen, is lower than normal.
- serious injuries and shock. serious injuries, burns, and going into shock can cause your blood pressure to drop. for example, if you lose a lot of blood, if you have an allergic reaction called anaphylactic shock, or if you have shock caused by a bacterial infection.
- a change in medicines. if your GP thinks your blood pressure is caused by a medicine you are taking, they may want to try an alternative medicine or a different dose .
- hormone replacement. If your low blood pressure is caused by a change in certain hormones, for example if your adrenal glands are damaged, you may be referred to a specialist called an endocrinologist. may prescribe hormone replacement medications.
- nerve-stimulating medications. If you have a neurological condition, you may be given nerve-stimulating medications.
- Low blood pressure medications. These medications narrow blood vessels or increase blood volume to increase blood pressure. these are very rarely needed, as the treatments listed above and changes you can make yourself are usually enough.
- wear elastic support stockings (compression stockings). they put extra pressure on the legs, which helps improve circulation and raise blood pressure. for some people this may be enough, but talk to your GP first as they are not suitable for everyone.
- getting up slowly after sitting or lying down. You can try other simple movements to get your blood flowing before you stand up, such as stretching and bending your legs.
- avoid standing for long periods of time.
- drink enough water throughout the day, about 2 liters, so you don’t get dehydrated.
- eat little and often during the day. This prevents low blood pressure after eating.
If you have these symptoms, stop what you are doing and sit or lie down in case you fall, and drink some water.
Talk to your doctor or nurse if you experience these symptoms. In addition to being unpleasant, they could mean that you are at risk of falling. they could also be a sign of another health problem.
low blood pressure when standing up
Sometimes changes in your posture can cause your blood pressure to drop, for example when you go from sitting or lying down to standing up. you may feel the symptoms listed above when you stand up, such as feeling dizzy or fainting. They will pass quickly as your body adjusts, but they can put you at risk for falls.
This is called postural hypotension or orthostatic hypotension. It is caused by changes in the arteries that occur as you age and if you are taking medication to lower your blood pressure.
The following animation provides information about the causes, symptoms, and possible interventions related to orthostatic hypotension.
This film was produced by Newcastle University for work done by Dr. james frith, with the support of the nihr newcastle biomedical research centre.
what causes low blood pressure?
Some people have naturally low blood pressure. that is, there is no specific cause or reason why. It can be the result of a healthy lifestyle and being fit and active, and your genes may play a role.
Your blood pressure varies throughout the day. it may decrease when you have just eaten while blood reaches the intestine, if you have been on your feet for a long time, if you are dehydrated, and if the temperature is warm.
There are other possible causes of low blood pressure:
MedicationsLow blood pressure and low blood pressure when standing up can be caused by medications. These include blood pressure-lowering drugs, antidepressants, and beta-blockers, which are used to treat heart problems.
health problemslow blood pressure can also be caused by an illness or health problem.
How is low blood pressure diagnosed?
Like high blood pressure, low blood pressure (hypotension) can be easily diagnosed with a blood pressure check.
If you feel dizzy or faint when you stand up, you may need to have your blood pressure checked while lying down and again while standing.
You may be offered a tilt table trial. this is where you lie down on a table that starts in a horizontal position, then slowly inclines so that you are almost vertical, as if you were standing. Your blood pressure and pulse will be checked, and any symptoms you experience will be recorded. You may also have a blood test to check the levels of certain hormones.
what is a low blood pressure reading?
A blood pressure reading below 90/60 mmHg is considered low blood pressure. only one of the numbers needs to be at or below this level to count as low blood pressure. read more about the meaning of numbers.
How is low blood pressure treated?
If your blood pressure is naturally low and not causing any problems, you probably don’t need any treatment. If you have symptoms and your doctor or nurse thinks you would benefit from treatment, they will try to find the cause of your low blood pressure so they can find the best way to treat it.
Treatments will vary depending on the cause.
what can I do for myself?
There are other things you can do for yourself to help your symptoms.
read moreread more about how blood pressure works.
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