Low blood pressure is usually a sign that there is inadequate blood flow from the heart to the organs. It is considered to be low if it is equal to or lower than 90/60 mmHg. In many cases, people with low blood pressure will not notice any symptoms, however many people can lead a completely normal life with low blood pressure.
If blood pressure lowers suddenly, some symptoms that can occur are:
- Loss of balance
- Loss of energy
- Muscular weakness
- Fainting sensation
- Sensation of a heavy head
- Blurry or wavy vision
In addition, it is common to feel fatigue, difficulty concentrating and a cold sensation. Many people will feel several symptoms at the same time. In order to relieve symptoms associated with low blood pressure, you can lie down with your legs elevated, or drink a coffee with sugar or a juice.
What to do when blood pressure is low
In most cases, low blood pressure that presents with symptoms is temporary and does not occur very frequently. In these situations, to reduce any discomfort, you should:
- Sit with your head between your legs, or lie down with your legs elevated, with your feet over heart and head level. You should do this in a fresh, well-ventilated place to avoid fainting.
- Loosen any tight clothing to improve breathing and sweating
- Drink 1 cup of orange juice, which is rich in potassium and can help with blood pressure
- Avoid hot environments and places that are humid
When low blood pressure occurs every day, you can wear compression stockings, as it can be a result of accumulated blood in the legs. In addition, when orthostatic hypotension occurs when you get up from bed, you should sit for about 2 minutes before getting up to a standing position.
If your symptoms do not improve with these measures or if they occur frequently, you should see your doctor for assessment and treatment as indicated.
How it is diagnosed
The initial diagnosis of low blood pressure is completed by measuring the blood pressure, which can be done digitally or manually with with a sphygmomanometer. Blood pressure should be measured immediately after waking, while sitting, with a relaxed arm. Generally, a blood pressure is considered to be low with a reading that is equal to or lower than 90/60 mmHg.
Blood pressure is influenced by 3 general factors: the heart's pumping capability, blood vessels and the blood itself.
Low blood pressure caused by heart pumping problems can be a side-effect of medications, for example, like anti-hypertensives, antidepressants or weight loss medication. The way the heart pumps can also be influenced by anxiety, stress or inadequate sleep.
Blood vessels can be influenced by a variety of factors, like hot environments for example. Heat can cause the vessels to dilate, decreasing the resistance felt from vessels during blood flow, which can lead to decreased blood pressure.
Characteristics of the blood, like volume and thickness can also affect blood pressure. Decreased amounts of circulating blood, caused by excessive sweating or diuretics for example, can lead to low blood pressure. Low B12 levels can also result in thinner blood, also causing drops in pressure.
Orthostatic hypotension is a transient type of low blood pressure that usually resolves quicker. It is characterized by a dip in blood pressure that occurs when you change positions, like getting up from a lying position, or standing too quickly. It can cause a fainting or dizziness sensation.