One of the body’s vital signs is blood pressure (BP). Blood Pressure is the force that one’s blood applies on the walls of the blood vessel during the contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle. It helps to determine if the organs in the body, such as the brain, heart and liver, are getting enough blood and oxygen.
Blood pressure readings involve Systolic pressure and Diastolic pressure, which are expressed as a ratio, e.g. 180/80 with 180 as the Systolic pressure and 80 as the Diastolic pressure.
• Systolic pressure (the upper number) measures the pressure within the arteries when the heart beats or is contracting (systole) to pump blood to the body.
• Diastole pressure (the lower number) measures the arteries’ pressures when the heart is at rest between beats. The Diastole pressure is usually lower than Systolic pressure.
A blood pressure reading is considered to be normal when the reading is less than 120/80 millimetres (mm) of mercury (Hg).
What is Hypotension?
Hypotension is a medical term for low blood pressure. It occurs when the blood pressure is lower than normal. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, a low blood pressure is a blood pressure that is less than 90/60. Hypotension is the opposite of hypertension. It can affect people of any group or ethnicity. It can occur either on its own or as a symptom of a broad range of health conditions.
Low blood pressure can be good or bad depending on the circumstances. Low blood pressure is not a cause for concern when it occurs without any symptoms in healthy individuals. It can be good when the goal is to keep the blood pressure under control. Low blood pressure can be fatal when it is a sign of an underlying medical condition, or when blood is not getting to the vital organs such as the brain, lungs and heart since there is not enough pressure to pump blood to these organs.
Hypotension may not cause any symptoms, but when it does, it may be a sign that you require urgent medical attention.
Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure
Recurring low blood pressure is considered to be dangerous and an indication that your vital organs are not getting enough blood and oxygen if the hypotension is accompanied by any of the following noticeable signs or symptoms:
• Dizziness or light-headedness
• Nausea and vomiting
• Fatigue or Fainting
• Blurry vision
• Cold, clammy, pale skin
• Rapid, shallow breathing
What causes Low Blood Pressure?
There is no one clear cause of low blood pressure. But, clinicians believe that decreased blood pressure can be caused by any of the following:
• Pregnancy during the first and second trimester.
• Prolonged bed rest.
• Decrease in blood volume resulting from significant blood loss caused by severe injuries.
• Medications like over-the-counter or prescription drugs, such as:
- drugs for treating hypertension
- heart medications
- drugs for Parkinson’s disease
- tricyclic antidepressants
- erectile dysfunction drugs
- narcotics and alcohol
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• Hormonal problems: complications such as diabetes, or hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar), adrenal insufficiency, underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), and parathyroid disease
• Heart problems like heart failure, an abnormally low heart rate, problems with heart valves, heart attack and abnormal heart rhythms.
• Liver disease and Lung problems such as lung collapse
• Widening, or dilation, of the blood vessels
• Severe dehydration, which can occur when you lose more water than you are taking, maybe as a result of vomiting, diarrhoea, or fever.
• Severe blood infection (sepsis): this can occur when bacteria leave the original site of an infection and move into the bloodstream. The bacteria then produce toxins that affect the blood vessels, resulting in a severe blood pressure decrease.
• Severe allergic reactions.
• Neurally mediated hypotension: this is a disorder that causes blood pressure to decrease after standing for a long time; it causes symptoms such as nausea, dizziness and fainting. This condition usually occurs due to a miscommunication between the heart and the brain.
• Nutritional deficiency: lack of minerals like iron and vitamins such as B12 and folic acid can cause anaemia.
Complications of Hypotension
Complications that can occur because of hypotension include:
• Falls and fall-related injuries: Hypotension can result in falls and fall-related injuries as it can cause dizziness and fainting. Falls can result in broken bones, concussions, minor or even life-threatening injuries. Falling is the biggest complication that can happen with hypotension, and preventing falls should be one of your biggest priorities if you have hypotension.
• Shock: Low blood pressure can reduce the amount of blood that gets to your organs, and limited blood flow and oxygen can cause organ damage or cause your body to shut down (shock).
• Heart problems or strokes: Your heart may try to compensate for the low blood pressure by pumping faster or harder. This can result in permanent heart damage and even heart failure with time. Also, because hypotension can hinder blood from flowing as it should, it can cause clots to form, resulting in problems like deep vein thrombosis and stroke.
Ways to Increase Low Blood Pressure
Making some changes in your lifestyle can help to increase your blood pressure. You can do the following:
• Increase your salt intake. Be careful when using this option, as excess salt intake can result in heart failure. So, it is better to Consult a Doctor before using this option.
• Drink lots of non-alcoholic fluids such as water and tea, especially during hot weather or while sick, to increase blood volume and reduce dehydration, both of which are important in treating low blood pressure.
• Limit the intake of alcohol or alcoholic beverages as alcohol is dehydrating and can lower blood pressure.
• Exercise regularly to increase your heart rate and promote blood flow.
• Avoid lifting heavy objects.
• Be careful when moving from lying or sitting to a standing position. Avoid sitting or standing up too quickly
• Eat smaller meals at a time and limit your carb intake.
• Wear compression stockings if need be. Compression stockings can help relieve the pain and swelling of varicose veins and restrict blood flow to the legs. This helps reduce blood pooling in your legs and keeps more blood in the upper body.
• Avoid standing for a long time
In a nutshell:
Hypotension is not considered harmful when it occurs on its own without any symptoms.
Hypotension is only a cause for concern when they become persistent and are accompanied by noticeable signs and symptoms that indicate that your vital organs are not getting enough blood and oxygen as they should. This means your body can go into shock. In such a case, you need to see the doctor immediately to diagnose the cause and prescribe the best treatment.