You hear a lot about the dangers of HIGH blood pressure, but guess what: LOW blood pressure can kill you.
Do you know the symptoms of low blood pressure and how to safely raise it?
Blood pressure that is too low can be serious or harmless or something in between.
Low blood pressure (hypotension) has many causes including heart conditions, nutritional deficiencies and medications.
The cut-off for normal BP readings and high readings is 140 over 90. So when does blood pressure get too low?
“The first question to address is if the blood pressure is really too low,” says Teresa Caulin-Glaser, MD, a cardiologist and senior vice president with Service Lines, OhioHealth..
“In general, if patients are asymptomatic and the systolic (“top number”) blood pressure is approximately 90mmHg or better, you do not need to treat.
“However, if the person is developing symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, and/or passing out, there needs to be a full history and medical evaluation.”
If you believe your blood pressure is too low, review any medications you’ve been taking.
Explains Dr. Caulin-Glaser: “If the evaluation determines there are no medical problems and/or medications such as diuretics, ace-inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers causing low blood pressure and symptoms, then there are non-pharmacologic treatments that can be implemented.”
Other Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure
Lack of concentration, blurred vision, fatigue, nausea, thirst, cold and clammy skin, and rapid shallow breathing.
A big danger of low blood pressure is organ damage due to insufficient blood supply to them.
As you can see, low blood pressure can present with an assortment of symptoms, while high BP (also known as hypertension), which is a major risk factor for stroke, offers up no symptoms, which is why hypertension is nicknamed “the silent killer.”
How do you raise low blood pressure that’s creating symptoms?
Dr. Caulin-Glaser says, “Some simple options for treatment are drinking fluids to decrease the risk of dehydration, increasing the amount of sodium in the diet, and decreasing alcohol intake.
“There are medications such as fludrocortisone that can be considered in the treatment of symptomatic low blood pressure, but this would be under the direction of a physician after a full medical evaluation.”
Other Causes of Low Blood Pressure
Vitamin B12 deficiency causing anemia (result of a vegan diet, since this vitamin is found in animal-derived foods); pregnancy; low blood sugar; severe infection.
The low blood pressure that’s caused by infections of the urinary tract, lungs or abdomen, can be fatal.
Typically whenever one sees a doctor for any reason, a BP reading is taken.
It’s perfectly okay to request that your blood pressure be taken at the conclusion of the doctor visit, because by then, much of your anxiety will be diminished.
Otherwise, your readings may be uncharacteristically high if taken at the beginning of the visit, due to anxiety; this is known as white-coat syndrome.
Low blood pressure has many causes, but if there are no accompanying symptoms, then you need not worry about having BP that is below normal.
Dr. Caulin-Glaser is an experienced physician, teacher and researcher in the specialty of cardiovascular disease, and formerly the system vice president for Heart & Vascular Services at OhioHealth.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.