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While low blood pressure (or “hypotension”) may not cause symptoms in some people, others may experience blurred vision, dizziness, depressed mood, brain fog or confusion, feeling cold, increased thirst, fatigue, and nausea. Read this article to find what steps to take when blood pressure is low.
A blood pressure reading below 90 mmHg systolic or 60 mmHg diastolic is generally thought of as low. Your doctor checks your blood pressure during visits. But it’s best to have a blood pressure monitor at home and check it regularly.
My Blood Pressure Is Low: What Do I Do?
Here are some tips that can help you raise your blood pressure quickly:
- Drink a couple of glasses of water. Even mild dehydration can cause a decrease in blood pressure. Diuretics (water pills), alcohol, coffee, working out, a hot environment, fever, and loose stool can all cause dehydration. To best hydrate, drink water with electrolytes. Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes.
- Move your legs a bit up and down to get the blood flowing. This technique prevents the pooling of blood in one area while warming up and increasing the blood flow to the muscles. It’s particularly helpful if you have sudden low blood pressure when you stand up from sitting or lying down.
- Cross your legs when sitting. Based on a research study, blood pressure increases when legs are crossed at the knee in the sitting position. Crossing the legs at the ankles doesn’t seem to help too much.
- Eat small, frequent meals. Large, heavy, or carbohydrate-rich meals can cause a drop in blood pressure. This form of hypotension is also known as postprandial hypotension. The solution is to eat small, frequent snacks to maintain healthy blood pressure levels throughout the day. Make sure you eat healthy foods like raw veggies with hummus, small amounts of nuts and seeds, or fruit.
- Compression stockings. The best compression stockings to squeeze the legs are thigh-high or waist-high. These stockings can be helpful in the case of orthostatic hypotension because they help prevent the blood from pooling in your legs.
- Add extra pillows when you sleep. Raising your head above the level of your heart can help deal with the effects of gravity, and combat hypotension.
- Drink salty, sugary, or caffeine-based drinks. Salt and caffeine can help increase blood pressure and sugary drinks can help when blood pressure drop is caused by hypoglycemia.
It is always a good idea to track these hypotensive events and record them in a journal. While the tips above can help you deal with a minor drop in blood pressure, you need to look into the cause behind decreased blood pressure so you can prevent it in the future. Work with your doctor to find out why it continues. Here are some steps you can take:
Understanding The Cause Of Low Blood Pressure
- Identify the type of blood pressure. Does it occur when standing up after sitting or lying down (called “orthostatic hypotension”)? Does it develop after eating (“postprandial hypotension”)? Other types include neurally-mediated hypotension (caused by faulty brain signals and mostly seen in young adults and children) and low blood pressure due to nervous system damage.
- Conduct blood tests to measure vitamin B12 and iron. Nutrient deficiencies, especially B12, folate, and iron can cause anemia, which leads to low blood pressure.
- Hormones. Blood pressure is altered across the entire spectrum of thyroid diseases. Hypothyroidism in particular can cause low blood pressure. Parathyroid disease, Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency), low or high blood sugar can trigger low blood pressure.
- Heart tests may help identify an underlying heart condition. Low heart rate, heart valve problems, heart failure, and coronary artery diseases can cause low blood pressure.
- Bring the list of medications and review all the drugs with your doctor. Some drugs increase the risk of low blood pressure, especially ones for high blood pressure and Parkinson’s disease, along with antidepressants. Your doctor may adjust the doses or switch to another drug if the events are related and become concerning.
- Medication for low blood pressure is available. Fludrocortisone, midodrine, and pyridostigmine can be used to treat hypotension. However, they do have side effects, and some of them can be serious. Discuss with your doctor the benefits and risks of using them.
- Blood pressure is often lower during pregnancy because the circulatory system expands quickly during this time. It should return to normal after delivery.
There is no need to worry if you have a single episode of lower-than-normal blood pressure unless you have symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, and confusion.
However, extreme hypotension can be a life-threatening condition. Sudden, severe drops in blood pressure can be caused by massive blood loss, severe infections, or severe allergic reactions. If you experience cold, clammy, and pale skin, rapid shallow breathing, a weak and rapid pulse, and/or confusion, you should seek emergency medical help.