The Lowdown on Low Blood Pressure

Most people worry about having high blood pressure. For a few people, but, low blood pressure, or hypotension, is a big worry.

Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.  The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute defines hypotension as a blood pressure lower than 90/60. There is no lower limit that is deemed unhealthy. Older adults may have symptoms of dizziness and lightheadedness when their blood pressure drops lower than usual. But most people with blood pressure in the lower ranges are young and healthy, and have no symptoms.

What are the symptoms?

These are symptoms of low blood pressure:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Fainting

  • Lack of concentration

  • Blurred vision

  • Nausea

  • Cold, clammy, pale skin

  • Rapid, shallow breathing

  • Fatigue

  • Depression

  • Unusual thirst

These are possible causes of low blood pressure:

  • Medicine, including those for anxiety, heart problems, Parkinson's disease, erectile dysfunction, and depression. Other prescription and over-the-counter medicines may cause low blood pressure when taken with drugs for high blood pressure.

  • Postural hypotension, or a sudden decrease in pressure that occurs when you stand up after sitting or lying down. This can cause dizziness, blurred vision, and fainting.

  • Heart problems, including an abnormally low heart rate, heart attack, and heart failure.

  • Dehydration, shock, advanced diabetes, and thyroid problems.

  • Genetics. Some people have naturally low blood pressure because of their genes. 

  • Pregnancy

  • Severe infection 

Treatment

Many healthy people who do have low blood pressure and no symptoms require no treatment. Most people with chronic low blood pressure who have symptoms can be safely treated with medicine and lifestyle changes.

The following actions may help control the problem:

  • Drink more water.

  • Avoid alcohol because it can be dehydrating. Alcohol also changes the effectiveness of medicines.

  • Slow down. You may be able to reduce lightheadedness by taking it easy when you move from a prone to a standing position. Instead of jumping out of bed in the morning, for instance, sit up on the edge before standing and wiggle your feet and move your legs. This will get your heart rate up and increase circulation.

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