Low Blood Pressure
Low Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the pressure that flowing bloods exerts on arterial walls. Normal blood pressure values are between 110/65 mmHg and 140/90 mmHg. If a blood pressure below 110/65mmHg is measured repeatedly, it is a sign of low blood pressure, or hypotension. Low blood pressure can affect young, healthy individuals, as well older individuals in whom low blood pressure is usually a sign of illness. Long-term low blood pressure must be treated in order to prevent complications.
Causes of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure, medically known as hypotension, is the repeated measurement of a blood pressure below 110/65 mmHg. Causes of low blood pressure can be divided according to two types of hypotension; primary and secondary low blood pressure.
Primary Low Blood Pressure
Primary low blood pressure develops from unknown causes and mostly affects young, healthy women. This may be due to slight variations in nervous and hormonal influences on blood pressure. This type of low blood pressure also affects athletes who are able to adapt to various intensities during training. Primary low blood pressure typically does not cause any problems for the individual, and can even help protect him or her from a number of serious illnesses related to high blood pressure.
Secondary Low Blood Pressure
- Secondary low blood pressure has known causes. Orthostatic hypotension is a condition classified under secondary low blood pressure.
- Orthostatic hypotension is a condition that can be completely natural and not be accompanied by an illness. It is low blood pressure occurring due to rapid changes in positions such as from sitting or lying down, to suddenly standing up. It is most common in the younger population, however orthostatic hypotension can also affect individuals above the age of 65, causing falls and an increase in illnesses. The cause of such cases is too high a dose of medication for high blood pressure, a worsened reaction to changes in blood pressure due to damaged arterial walls from lipid and calcium plaque or a damaged nervous system as a result of other illnesses such as Parkinson's disease, diabetes or alcoholism.
- Some patients experience a drop in blood pressure after eating, and blood pressure drops naturally when sleeping.
- Low blood pressure can also be caused by diseases affecting the heart, blood vessels or endocrine system - a system of glands with internal secretion that includes the pancreas, thyroid gland, adrenal glands and the pituitary gland. Glands of the endocrine system produce hormones influencing blood pressure. The thyroid gland produces a hormone that affects the metabolism of the whole body. A symptom of low thyroid function can also be low blood pressure. Adrenal glands also produce a variety of hormones that help regulate blood pressure, such as adrenalin. A deficiency in adrenalin, as well as a deficiency in any other adrenal hormone, can cause the organism to be unable to react to the stress of increased blood pressure, which can lead to death.
- Other conditions leading to low blood pressure include bleeding, burns, severe vomiting, diarrhea, pregnancy, recovering from an illness requiring prolonged bed rest, heat, and smoking marihuana.
- The most severe cause of low blood pressure is shock. Shock can occur on the basis of a number of causes. It develops during hemorrhaging, burns, widespread bruising, acute pancreatitis, acute myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, poisoning, severe infections or allergic reactions, and many other life-threatening conditions.
Manifestations of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure manifests non-specific symptoms, which means the symptoms can occur as a result of many different illnesses and are therefore not specific to low blood pressure. Low blood pressure may not have any manifestations in some people, therefore they are unaware that they have this condition. Symptoms of low blood pressure include fatigue, sleepiness, headaches, pallor, difficulty concentrating, cold sensitivity and cold extremities. More severe cases of low blood pressure can cause vomiting, the appearance of flashing lights, cold sweats, nausea and temporary loss of consciousness.
Complications of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure causes a decrease in blood supply to organs. Some organs are especially sensitive to this condition, which is why temporary loss of consciousness can occur. This can lead to various falls and injuries. Significant fluctuations in blood pressure (between normal and low levels) can lead to stroke, dementia and other brain disorders. Long term untreated low blood pressure can lead to the failure of organs such as the heart, kidneys or brain.
Diagnosing Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure is diagnosed based on medical history, with a focus on whether the condition affected other family members, and on clinical symptoms affecting the patient. The most essential part of the diagnosis is the repeated measurement of the patient's blood pressure with the help of a sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure meter. Blood pressure is measured when lying down, sitting and standing. This helps determine the effects of gravity on blood pressure. It is also possible to recommend a patient for Holter monitoring. A Holter meter is a device that attaches to a patient and records blood pressure over the course of 24 hours. The patient must write down all activity that he or she underwent and at what time during the day. The doctor can then compare the records of the Holter meter with the patient's activities, and asses the correlation.
Treating Low Blood Pressure
Treatment of low blood pressure is only necessary if the patient experiences symptoms. Healthy people without symptoms do not require treatment for their low blood pressure. Long-term low blood pressure must be treated in order to prevent complications and organ failure. Treatment for low blood pressure is divided into conservative and pharmacological treatment.
Conservative Treatment for Low Blood Pressure
Conservative treatment for low blood pressure rests in the modifications of lifestyle habits. Individuals with low blood pressure can benefit from regular physical activity, such as swimming, and avoiding rapid changes in positions. For example, it best to stand up from a sitting position slowly. It is also recommended that patients wear elastic compression stocking or bandages on the legs in order to help blood return to the heart. Increasing one's salt intake and drinking enough fluids are also beneficial. Patients with low blood pressure are often told to drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee or tea.
Pharmacological Treatment for Low Blood Pressure
Pharmacological treatment for low blood pressure is based on the administration of medications that affect arterial walls and cause them to narrow, thereby increasing blood pressure. Pharmacological treatment requires the treatment of any underlying illnesses that are causing the decrease in blood pressure in the first place. In this case, low blood pressure is only a symptom of another illness, and thus the increase in blood pressure will not eliminate its cause.
Preventing Low Blood Pressure
The prevention of low blood pressure is based on the avoidance of factors that can lead to this condition. These include primarily, standing up slowly from a sitting position, getting enough exercise and drinking enough fluids. Drinking coffee and black tea can also help prevent low blood pressure, though they should not be consumed too often as this could have the opposite effect.