Low blood pressure: when should you worry?

Low blood pressure: when should you worry?

Every time you measure or take the pressure, the reading is low. Should you worry According to the American Heart Society, within certain limits, the lower the reading of your blood pressure, the better, as long as it is not accompanied by certain symptoms, in which case it does represent a potential risk to your health. Do you know what those symptoms are? Here we tell you, as well as the most common causes of low blood pressure or hypotension.

What is low blood pressure or hypotension?

To understand it better, it is advisable to review in the first place, what is  the blood pressure and what are the levels that are considered normal.

Blood pressure is the measure of the pressure that the blood exerts on your arteries, driven by the heart, during the activity and rest phases of each beat. There are two types of pressure: systolic and diastolic. These are measured, usually in the forearm, with a device called a tensiometer (or sphygmomanometer) and the readings are obtained in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Systolic pressure is the highest number (the first one obtained) and refers to the pressure generated by the heart when it pumps blood through the arteries at the time it exerts the maximum force of contraction. Diastolic pressure is the smallest number (the second), and refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between one beat and another.

The pressure reading can vary in a short period of time, depending on the position of your body, the rhythm of your breathing, your stress level, your physical condition, the medications you take and what you eat and drink. It is usually lower at night, and rises quickly when you wake up.

What is considered a normal pressure?

According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, an adult’s blood pressure is considered normal when the systolic pressure is 120 mm Hg or less and the diastolic blood pressure is 80 mm Hg. or less. If the systolic is between 120 and 130 and / or the diastolic is between 80 and 89 it is considered pre-hypertension, if the systolic is above 140 and / or the diastolic is above 90, it is considered high ( hypertension ) On the other hand if the systolic pressure is 90 mm Hg. or less or the diastolic is 60 mm Hg. or less, it is considered low (hypotension).

Generally, low blood pressure alone is not dangerous to health (within certain limits), and many people usually have it low without experiencing problems. But when it falls too low, immediate measures must be taken, as it can cause oxygen and blood nutrients to not reach the vital organs, which has serious health consequences. If you usually have low blood pressure, and have noticed one or more of the following symptoms, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible, as they may be a sign of other medical problems:

Symptoms of low blood pressure

The most common symptoms of hypotension or low blood pressure are:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting (or syncope)
  • Pale, cold skin
  • Depression
  • Blurry vision
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • General weakness
  • Sickness
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Thirst

Why is the pressure low?

There are several conditions that can cause low blood pressure or hypotension. They are between them:

  • Dehydration . If you become dehydrated, your body loses more water than it receives. High fever, vomiting, diarrhea, taking too much diuretics or doing strenuous exercise can dehydrate you
  • Bleeding When you lose a large amount of blood from a wound or from internal bleeding, the pressure may drop.
  • Pregnancy. As a woman’s circulatory system expands rapidly, blood pressure has to drop. Pressure usually normalizes after delivery.
  • Heart conditions Some can lead to low blood pressure (sometimes very low), such as heart valve problems, heart attacks and heart failure .
  • Endocrine problems The thyroid problems , adrenal insufficiency (Addison ‘s disease), very low level of sugar ( hypoglycemia ) and sometimes diabetes can cause hypotension.
  • Severe infection. If the infection enters the bloodstream, a septic shock can occur , this is a serious problem that can be life-threatening.
  • Lack of nutrients in the diet. The deficiency of vitamin B12 and / or folic acid , can cause anemia, and this may also lower blood pressure.
  • Severe allergic reactions Some foods, medications or the venom of some insects can cause anaphylaxis , an allergic reaction that can be serious and very dangerous.

Some medications can also cause blood pressure to drop, such as: beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, diuretics, ACE inhibitors, antidepressants, antipsychotics, as well as some medications to treat Parkinson’s or erectile dysfunction. Other substances such as alcohol and narcotics can also cause a decrease in blood pressure or hypotension.

I repeat, a single episode of low pressure should not worry if you do not experience other symptoms. Of course, if the decline is sudden, even if it is slight, it can cause dizziness and fainting. In certain cases, when blood pressure drops suddenly it may be due to another health problem, such as bleeding, a severe infection, an allergic reaction or what is known as orthostatic hypotension. The latter is caused by a sudden change in body position, if you get up quickly after sitting or lying down. Blood pressure suddenly drops causing dizziness, blurred vision and even fainting.

How is low pressure treated?

The treatment of low blood pressure depends on the cause. Sometimes, if the medical history does not establish the cause (for example, that you are taking any medication that explains it or that you are dehydrated, it is necessary to do a series of studies such as: an electrocardiogram, some blood tests, echocardiogram , stress test, the Valsalva maneuver, and / or the inclined table test, among others.

To prevent the pressure from lowering you, the doctor may recommend the following:

  • Drink plenty of water and limit alcohol consumption to avoid dehydration.
  • Eat a healthy diet (if you are asked to increase your sodium or salt intake, do so with caution).
  • Wear elastic stockings.
  • Eat small portions of foods that contain carbohydrates several times a day.
  • Avoid position changes quickly.
  • In certain cases, it is necessary to prescribe medications such as fludrocortisone.

Remember that low pressure alone is not the problem. It is the sudden fall or association of low blood pressure with other symptoms that requires you to consult a doctor as soon as possible. There are situations that are an emergency. Don’t prescribe or wait for yourself (it could be important). Seek help from a health professional. He or she will look for the cause that causes hypotension and will indicate the appropriate treatment to normalize it.

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