Low blood pressure is referred to as hypotension in the medical fraternity. The force that blood exerts on the arterial walls during circulation is defined as blood pressure. Essentially, it is a biomarker of your heart health. Though high blood pressure is more common and worrisome, low blood pressure or hypotension can also be a cause of concern.
What is Hypotension?
Your blood pressure is measured on the basis systolic pressure (the top number) and diastolic pressure (the number that appears below). Systolic pressure is the force with which your blood pushes against the arterial walls when your heart contracts or beats. Diastolic pressure, or the other hand, is the blood pressure in your arteries when the heart opens up or dilates in between the beats. Systolic pressure is always higher than diastolic pressure. A blood pressure reading of 90/60 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) is diagnosed as hypotension while 120/80 mmHg is considered as healthy blood pressure. Low blood pressure in otherwise healthy individuals who do not experience any other physical symptom doesn’t necessitate treatment. However, it can be the sign of an underlying disease if it deprives the heart, brain and other vital organs of sufficient blood supply.
Types of Hypotension
Low blood pressure can be triggered by several factors at different points of time. It can classified into various categories based on the triggers:
A drop in blood pressure levels during change of posture, from sitting or lying down to standing, is known as postural hypotension. Common in people of all ages, it is characterised by a brief period of dizziness.
If your blood pressure drops just after a meal, it is known as postprandial hypotension. It is common in older adults, especially those with Parkinson’s disease.
You may experience a drop in blood pressure levels after standing for long hours. This is known as neurally mediated hypotension. Kids are more likely to develop this form of hypotension. Traumatic life events may also be the culprit behind this condition.
Your body is in shock when your organs are deprived of the blood and oxygen they need to function properly. This form of hypotension can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Many people with low blood pressure do not have any symptom at all. However, people with underlying health conditions like endocrine disorders or other acute ailments may experience the manifestations of hypotension when their blood pressure is below 90/60. Here are the symptoms you may experience:
- Clammy skin
- Cold Sweat
- Blurry vision
- Rapid, shallow breathing
What Causes Hypotension?
It’s difficult to always pinpoint the exact cause of hypotension. Almost everyone experiences it at some point of time without any worrying symptom. However, certain conditions can trigger long-term hypotension. Left untreated, they may be dangerous. Here, we guide you on some of those conditions:
- Injury-related blood loss
- Impairment in blood circulation triggered by a heart attack or faulty valves of the heart
- Weakness and shock associated with dehydration
- Severe allergic reaction
- Blood infection
- Hormonal disorders like diabetes, thyroid disorder
- Medications for heart ailments, diuretics, and antidepressants among others
- Liver disease
- Pregnancy (Hypotension may occur due to an increased demand of blood for the mother and the growing foetus).
Diagnosis of Hypotension
In order to check if you have hypotension, your doctor will first review your symptoms, the circumstances that a drop in blood pressure and your medical history. He may also check your blood pressure and pulse rate repeatedly after you’ve lied down for a few minutes, just after you get up from the bed, and a few minutes after you stand up. You may also expect a few tests related to cardiac issues as low blood pressure can be indicative of a heart ailment. These tests include electrocardiogram (measures your heart rate and rhythm) and an echocardiogram (an imaging test that gives a clear picture of your heart) Additionally, blood tests to check for anaemia and blood sugar levels may be necessary. Your physician may also recommend an exercise stress test and a tilt table test. The later is suggested in case of postural hypotension. For this test, which reviews your body’s response to postural changes, you will have to lie down on a table, safely strapped. After you rest there for a while, your doctor will lift the table to an upright position and keep it in that position for about an hour when your blood pressure levels, heart rate, and other physical symptoms will be recorded.
Treatment for Hypotension
In most cases, hypotension doesn’t require medical intervention. Dietary changes and lifestyle modifications are good enough to improve your condition. However, if these measures don’t work, you mat need medicines, depending on the underlying cause of low blood pressure. Here is a low-down on them.
Steroids: Your doctor may prescribe certain steroids classified as fludrocortisone. These drugs help your kidney retain sodium and lead to fluid accumulation and swelling. These are required to up your blood pressure levels. However, this process can lead to depletion in your potassium. So you will have to replenish it through your diet.
Midodrine: This is an antihypotensive agent used to treat postural hypotension associated with the dysfunction of the central nervous system. It works by stimulating receptors of your arteries and veins. This process raises your blood pressure levels.
Including some foods in your meals alongside following certain dietary rules will help you manage your blood pressure levels:
- Follow a high sodium diet. Include smoked fish, cottage cheese, olives and pickles in your meals.
- Include plenty of fluids in your diet. Make sure you are not dehydrated, especially when working out. Depleted fluid levels in the body can lead to low blood pressure levels.
- Have foods rich in vitamin B-12 and folate because lack of these essential nutrients can lead to anaemia, a blood disorder that often leads to hypotension. Eggs, fortified cereals and animal protein are good sources of vitamin B-12. Folate-rich foods include beans, lentils, citrus fruits, leafy greens, and eggs among others.
- Limit your alcohol intake.
- Stick to small, frequent meals throughout the day. Also, rest after each meal.
- Practise moderation while it comes to carbohydrate-rich foods.
Prevention of Hypotension
Small changes in your daily functions can go a long way in preventing the relapse of hypotension if you have a history of this condition.
- Exercise regularly to promote blood flow.
- Be cautious as get up from a sleeping position. Massage your feet and ankles a few times while changing posture in order to boost blood circulation. Move slowly as you get out of your bed. Sit up straight first, wait for a few minutes before stepping on the floor.
- Avoid lifting heavy weight.
- Do not stand for long hours.