What are the symptoms of low blood pressure?
Hypotension refers to low blood pressure values that can lead to dizziness, tiredness, cold hands and feet. Apart from these symptoms, it has no other negative consequences for health.
Hypotension is not dangerous in itself. Conversely, if there is no identifiable cause of permanent low blood pressure, life expectancy is even higher and the risk of cardiovascular disease is lower. However, people who are prone to hypotension may become faint or fall. These falls can have sequelae. Therefore, it is advisable to take a treatment if the low tension is accompanied by symptoms. To stabilize the blood pressure, it is always enough to get some simple measures. Only medications are needed in certain cases.
With low pressure, less blood flows into the brain and the brain receives less oxygen. Therefore, low blood pressure leads to visual disturbances (blurred vision), ringing in the ears, dizziness or fainting. If the pressure drop is sudden, it may even collapse.
Low blood pressure can be due to several causes. It is often orthostatic hypotension, a special type of low blood pressure. This type of hypotension occurs mainly in young and thin women, as well as in situations of stress or in rooms that are too hot. If you are standing for a long time or if you suddenly pass from lying down to standing, blood collects in the lower part of the body. Then, there is less blood available in the brain for the body to react to fainting. When lying down, the affected will rest faster and can wake up in less time.
What is the definition of low blood pressure?
Low blood pressure (hypotension) occurs when pressure falls below certain values. This is the value that is usually first mentioned when measuring blood pressure (called systolic value): if the mercury column is less than 105 millimeters (mmHg), the blood pressure is considered low. Systolic blood pressure occurs when the heart contracts and pumps blood to the arteries. The blood supply to each of the organs, especially the brain, depends on the systolic pressure. Therefore, low blood pressure causes symptoms that indicate little blood supply to the brain.
Low diastolic blood pressure (that occurs when the heart relaxes after contraction) plays a secondary role in the blood supply to the organs. The diastolic value is the one that is mentioned secondly in the measurement of the pressure. If you have low blood pressure, its value is usually 65 to 60 millimeters in the mercury column (mmHg). Unlike in the case of high blood pressure (hypertension), it does not lead to permanent damage to blood vessels.
Incidence of low blood pressure
Hypotension usually has no consequences on those affected. Most of the time it is usually discovered when a blood pressure measurement is performed. Therefore, it is not possible to obtain accurate data on the incidence of low blood pressure. When the symptoms are present they are so diffuse that it is not always possible to assure their origin.
Low blood pressure is mainly due to:
- In young people at puberty, especially girls
- In young and thin women
- In pregnancy
- In women with eating disorders (anorexia or bulimia)
- In very thin elderly people
What causes to low blood pressure?
Hypotension is classified in primary (or essential) and secondary, depending on the factors that cause it.
If the causes of hypotension are unknown, it is called primary hypotension. This type of low blood pressure is very common and permanent. It is interesting that this type of hypotension occurs mainly in young and thin people, especially in women. For this reason, the term constitutional hypotension (ie, low blood pressure related to the physical constitution) is also used. It is likely that the onset of primary hypotension is due to certain hereditary factors, but may also influence the environment and infections.
If low blood pressure can be attributed to specific causes, it is called secondary hypotension. In this case, it may be a symptom of an underlying disease. Possible diseases that cause this type of low blood pressure include, for example: cardiovascular disease (heart failure) or endocrine disorders (hypothyroidism). However, it is also possible that certain medications, bleeding or considerable fluid loss are the cause of secondary hypotension.
Low blood pressure symptoms
In many cases, hypotension does not present any symptoms. The discomfort is due to decreased blood supply in the brain: in the lower half can remain up to 600 milliliters of blood. This can get worse if there are varicose veins or a malfunction of the leg muscles, as they usually serve as a muscle boost for the return of blood from the legs to the heart. Thus, low blood pressure manifests itself in undetermined ways. In the foreground there are symptoms such as visual disturbances (blurred vision), pulsating headache, dizziness and alterations of the knowledge that can lead to syncope.
With low blood pressure, the decrease in blood flow leads to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system. This causes a counter-reaction of the body: the heart rate increases so that the amount of blood is normal again (that is, it is characteristic to have a high pulse if the blood pressure is low). Those affected freeze or sweat. Low blood pressure is often accompanied by symptoms such as tiredness, apathy, ringing in the ears, cold hands and feet, and insomnia.
How to diagnose low blood pressure?
Hypotension can be checked by measuring blood pressure. In addition, it is important to have information about previous diseases, medications and eating habits of those affected to establish the diagnosis of low blood pressure. The temporal association between a sudden change in body position and the occurrence of discomfort is characteristic of people with low tension values.
The most important test for the diagnosis of hypotension is the Schellong test. Numerous measurements of blood pressure and pulse are made with the patient lying down and standing. The behavior of the pulse and the values of the tension allow to better evaluate the capacity of regulation of the cardiovascular system. During the test, those affected lie down for ten minutes at rest, then rise and stay in that position another ten minutes.
If blood pressure drops when standing more than 20 millimeters in the mercury (mmHg) column of systolic and 10 mmHg diastolic and there are disturbances of consciousness or dizziness, these symptoms indicate the presence of the orthostatic syndrome. In this case, low blood pressure is the consequence of a sudden change in body position, whereby blood collects in the legs and is not available in the blood supply of the brain.
How to treat low blood pressure?
Treatment of low blood pressure is not necessary, as it is not dangerous per case. Therefore, this should not only focus on correcting the blood pressure measurement detected. It is only necessary when physical discomfort occurs. Hypotension can be treated with general procedures and medications. However, it is always advisable to give preference to general procedures. You only have to consider the treatment with medicines if the first ones do not get that the discomforts improve.
If you have low blood pressure, the first steps of the treatment are some general procedures. Its purpose is to be able to regulate and stabilize the blood vessels, as well as prevent the accumulation of blood in the lower half of the body. These general procedures against low blood pressure not only serve to treat current hypotension values, but also to prevent a sudden drop in blood pressure. General procedures include:
- A balanced and more salt-rich diet (contrary to what is recommended in cases of high blood pressure)
- Intake of liquid daily minimum of two and a half liters to three liters of mineral water rich in sodium, infusions of herbs, fruits and vegetable juices (coffee and black tea help in these cases only temporarily)
- At night, lie down half-awake (with the aid of a pillow)
- Protective stockings or the wrapping of the legs with elastic bandages in severe cases of varicose veins
- Massage with brush (from the heart out)
Medications for low blood pressure
If low blood pressure is constant or if you have primary hypotension, drug treatment is usually less effective than general procedures. If you follow these procedures steadily you may notice an improvement in discomfort even without taking them.
Only if your blood pressure drops and the consequent discomfort persists, medication treatment is necessary. In these cases, the most recommended are mineral-corticoids (fludrocortisone), derivatives of ergotamine (dihydroergotamine) or sympathomimetics (etilefrina). The type of medication prescribed depends on the causes of low pressure.
Low blood pressure progress
The development of hypotension usually has no symptoms. Despite this, if those affected feel that blood pressure values are low, there is no reason to worry. It may even be the opposite: if you have low blood pressure very often and there is no apparent cause for such low values, it means that you have a longer life expectancy and are less prone to cardiovascular disease.
If you have discomfort, the general procedures positively influence the development of the disease. Medications are almost never needed. It is better for those affected to adopt the general procedures on an ongoing basis. If low blood pressure occurs as an orthostatic syndrome, it often goes away on its own over the years.
Complications of low blood pressure
If it manifests with dizziness and fainting, low blood pressure can lead to complications. Those affected can suffer falls due to these symptoms and get injured.
How to prevent low blood pressure
Hypotension can be decreased with the help of general procedures that help stabilize the regulatory capacity of blood vessels. Therefore, to prevent low blood pressure it is advisable to practice sport frequently. In addition, you can avoid acute low blood pressure if you weigh your food and take it rich in salt (contrary to what is recommended for hypertension). It is also recommended that:
- Drink liquids daily, at least two and a half liters to three liters of liquids (sodium-rich mineral water, herbal and fruit infusions and fruit and vegetable juices are recommended; coffee and black tea help in these cases only in a way temporary)
- When you shower, cool hot and cold water (always cool)
- Massage frequently with a massage brush (from the heart out)
- At night, sleep half-dressed (use a pillow)
- In severe cases of varicose veins, use protective stockings or wrap the legs with elastic bandages
- Avoid fatigue and being overweight
- Practice relaxation techniques (such as autogenic training or yoga) to better overcome stress situations
If your blood pressure is too low, you can prevent the consequences of falling from your behavior:
If you experience a collapse or fainting, be very careful and avoid abrupt changes of position. It is very important in these cases not to get up abruptly when standing. As soon as you notice the first signs of a fall in tension (dizziness, fainting, cold sweats) lie down immediately and raise your legs to a height of about 45 degrees. In this way the blood returns to flow through the trunk and gets more irrigation to the brain, so the discomfort decreases.