Abnormal blood pressure, whether it is low or high, is a matter of concern. Low blood pressure, commonly known as hypotension, is a medical condition that occurs when blood pressure drops below the normal range.
Doctors generally define low blood pressure as a blood pressure reading lower than 90 mm Hg systolic or 60 mm Hg diastolic.
Even though low blood pressure causes no problem for some people, abnormally low blood pressure can lead to blurred vision, nausea, dizziness, and fainting due to the inadequate flow of oxygenated blood to the organs.
Extreme hypotension can be fatal and can indicate an underlying problem. A sudden drop in blood flow through the body can result in life-threatening situations like stroke, heart attack, and organ failure.
In this article, we talk about everything you need to know about low blood pressure, including what is blood pressure and its normal range, what are the causes and symptoms of low blood pressure, how to increase low blood pressure, what to eat to raise low blood pressure and much more.
What Is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the measure of how much pressure the circulating blood is exerting against the walls of your arteries.
Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood away from the heart to the rest of the body. Blood pressure is measured in units of millimeters of mercury (mmHg), and the readings are made up of two values expressed as a fraction – top number or systolic pressure and bottom number or diastolic pressure.
Systolic pressure: it indicates the amount of pressure in the arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. This will be the higher number in the BP reading.
Diastolic pressure: it indicates the blood pressure when the heart muscle is between beats and the heart is relaxed This will be the lower number in the BP reading.
A blood pressure reading between 90/60 mm Hg and 120/80 mm Hg is considered to be normal BP in an adult. If your results fall into this category, adhere to an active lifestyle and a wholesome diet to keep that going.
Moreover, no medical intervention is needed if your systolic and diastolic pressures are measured within this specified range. It can vary slightly even in healthy people.
However, if the numbers are higher (hypertension) or lower (hypotension) than the given range can be dangerous, you should seek medical attention at the earliest.
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What Causes Low Blood Pressure?
Have you ever been puzzled about what are the causes of low blood pressure?
Low blood pressure can be caused by various potential factors, including decreased cardiac output, dilation of blood vessels, low blood volume, autonomic dysfunction, and certain medications.
A wide range of underlying conditions can also cause low blood pressure. In such cases, those problems should be treated first to improve low blood pressure.
Health conditions that can cause low blood pressure include:
- Septic shock (the result of a severe infection)
- Blood loss
- Heart valve disease
- Heart attack or heart failure
- Bradycardia (slow heart rate)
- Endocrine problems
- Addison’s disease (adrenal insufficiency)
- Anaphylaxis (a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction)
- Lack of nutrients like vitamin B-12, folate and iron in the body
- Diabetes or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Hepatic failure (liver failure)
- Stand up from sitting or lying down (Orthostatic hypotension)
- Head injury or trauma
Medications that can cause low blood pressure include:
- Water pills (diuretics) such as hydrochlorothiazide
- Alpha blockers (e.g., prazosin)
- Beta-blockers (e.g., atenolol)
- Calcium channel blockers (e.g., amlodipine)
- Drugs for Parkinson’s disease (carbidopa and levodopa)
- Certain types of antidepressants (e.g., amitriptyline)
- Erectile dysfunction drugs (e.g., sildenafil), when used in combination with nitroglycerin (heart medication)
What Are the Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure?
Signs and symptoms rather than numbers mainly determine hypotension. Low blood pressure often indicates underlying problems, particularly when you have a sudden drop in levels, or any of the following symptoms accompany it:
- Fainting (syncope)
- Blurred or fading vision
- Fatigue or weakness
- Confusion or trouble concentrating
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Rapid, shallow breathing
If you are suffering from the symptoms like rapid and shallow breathing, a weak rapid pulse, and cold, clammy, and pale skin, seek emergency medical help because it may be the signs of shock.
How to Raise Low Blood Pressure?
Many people wonder how to increase blood pressure as hypotension is a condition that affects many people, mainly as they grow older. With simple modifications in diet and lifestyle, there are plenty of natural ways to increase your blood pressure, including:
1) Drink More Water
Staying well-hydrated by drinking at least two liters of water (roughly eight glasses) daily is advantageous for maintaining blood pressure by reducing any chances of dehydration. Dehydration can affect your blood pressure, causing it to go down. Moreover, sufficient water levels increase the volume of blood and help improve your blood pressure levels.
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2) Avoid Alcoholic Beverages
Alcohol may cause a drop in blood pressure as it is dehydrating. Also, alcohol interactions with medications might worsen low blood pressure. Limiting or stopping alcohol use is an essential part of controlling blood pressure.
3) Eat Smaller and More Frequent Meals
A sudden drop in blood pressure after eating larger, heavier meals is known as postprandial hypotension, common in older adults. After a large meal, blood indeed rushes to the intestine to help in proper digestion. As a result of this additional blood demand of the intestine, blood flow to other parts of the body will decrease and cause a drastic drop in blood pressure.
Eating small healthy meals frequently throughout the day may help prevent triggering postprandial hypotension. Also, consider reducing your carbohydrate intake because high-carbohydrate meals are thought to influence the BP decrease.
4) Eat a Balanced Diet
A healthy diet is essential for maintaining blood pressure at optimal levels. Because the lack of certain nutrients in the body can result in a drop in healthy red blood cells production, affecting the blood’s ability to carry sufficient oxygen.
Some research has shown that including certain foods in your diet, particularly those high in specific nutrients like vitamin B-12, folic acid, and iron, can help raise your blood pressure levels.
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5) Increase Salt Intake
Foods with high salt content help to raise blood pressure as salt contains sodium. However, too much salt can adversely affect your health; excess sodium can lead to heart failure. So you should only consume salt in moderation, and don’t forget to ask your doctor how much sodium is right for you.
6) Wear Compression Stockings
Compression stockings are snug-fitting, stretchy socks commonly used to relieve the pain and swelling of varicose veins by preventing blood from pooling in your legs.
Wearing these elastic stockings can be beneficial in lessening or eliminating the symptoms of orthostatic or postural hypotension, which is a sudden drop in blood pressure that happens when you stand up from a sitting or lying position.
7) Test Your Blood Sugar
By checking your blood sugar level, you may find the answer to what causes your low blood pressure. People with diabetes or low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) may be more prone to orthostatic hypotension or low blood pressure.
8) Take Medication
If the natural remedies don’t help raise your low blood pressure, your health care provider may prescribe medications. Fludrocortisone and Midodrine (Orvaten) are drugs that help to treat orthostatic hypotension.
If someone’s blood pressure is extremely low due to septicemia, it is a medical emergency, and medications like dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, etc., may be used to increase blood pressure. Medications are to be consumed ONLY based on your doctor’s prescription.
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What Food to Eat to Raise Low Blood Pressure?
If you are searching for an answer for how to increase blood pressure naturally, you should know what you eat has a notable impact on your blood pressure. Consuming certain types of food can help raise low blood pressure. Here’s how to increase blood pressure with food.
- Plenty of fluids: As discussed earlier, staying hydrated is crucial to maintain healthy blood pressure. Drink more water and other drinks like coconut water, juices, etc.
- Foods high in vitamin B-12: Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anaemia, which lowers blood pressure. Foods like eggs, sardines, meat, fortified cereals and nutritional yeast, milk products, etc., are rich in vitamin B12.
- Foods high in folate: Like vitamin B12, low levels of folic acid can also contribute to anaemia. Foods high in folate include asparagus, avocados, citrus fruits, leafy greens, beans, lentils, eggs, and liver.
- Caffeine: Consumption of beverages like coffee and caffeinated tea may temporarily elevate your blood pressure by stimulating the cardiovascular system and raising your heart rate. However, it does not affect everybody’s blood pressure in the same way. Also, remember, too much caffeine can be harmful to your health.
- Salt: As prior mentioned, intake of salty foods can make the blood pressure go up. You can try foods high in salt content like olives, smoked fish, cottage cheese, canned soup etc.
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Monitor your blood pressure regularly to check whether the dietary modifications are working for you or not. If your blood pressure remains high despite the modified diets and lifestyle changes, your health care provider will likely conduct more check-ups to rule out underlying conditions.
Have a look at the below video where we discuss blood pressure, hypertension & lifestyle.
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