Low blood pressure, or hypotension, describes blood pressure values below 90 mmHg systolic and 60 mmHg diastolic. Low blood pressure can have different causes and can often be treated by natural means.
What is low blood pressure?
The NHS (National Health Service) defines blood pressure values below 90 mmHg systolic and 60 mmHg diastolic as low blood pressure. The table below shows the NHS classification of blood pressure values.
|Systolic (mmHg)||Diastolic (mmHg)|
|Low blood pressure (hypotension)||< 90||< 60|
|Ideal blood pressure||90 - 120||60 - 80|
|Pre-high blood pressure||120 - 139||80 - 89|
|High blood pressure (hypertension)||≥ 140||≥ 90|
If you are affected by hypotension it is advisable to regularly read your blood pressure and to long-term monitor the development of your values.
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What causes low blood pressure?
Low blood pressure can have different causes. In many cases hypotension is innate. Innate hypotension is usually permanent and non-reversible. Nevertheless, the condition can also be caused to diseases.
Low blood pressure is, thus, categorised into three different groups: primary hypotension, secondary hypotension and orthostatic hypotension.
Primary hypotension or essential hypotension can be recognized by persistent low blood pressure. In the majority of cases this condition arises because of unknown causes. It is also striking that very often young women of slender stature count among those affected.
As a result of this observation, primary hypotension among young women is often referred to as constitutional hypotension (i.e. low blood pressure because of a weak physique).
Furthermore, essential hypotension is presumed to be a genetic predisposition, but also environmental factors as well as infections may have an influence on the condition.
Secondary hypotension is a form of low blood pressure that underlies a certain cause. This means that secondary hypotension is a symptom of another disease or condition. Common diseases in this context include cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure or an endocrine disorder such as hypothyroidism. In addition, medication or heavy bleeding and fluid loss can also lead to low blood pressure.
Orthostatic hypotension is a very common form of low blood pressure and can occur briefly in anyone. Orthostatic hypotension is caused by a disturbance of the blood regulation, e.g. when standing up too quickly or when standing for a longer time period. The blood thereby sinks into the lower body regions, which reduces the supply of oxygen to the brain. The rapid decrease in blood pressure can additionally cause visual disturbances, fainting or tinnitus. Orthostatic hypotension occurs particularly often in stressful situations.
Low blood pressure symptoms
Low blood pressure can be detected due to different isolated or cohesive symptoms. Typical symptoms of low blood pressure are:
- Lack of appetite
- Short breath
- Flickering in front of the eyes
- Depressive mood
- Sensitivity to cold
- Lack of concentration
- Weather sensitivity
Occurrence among different demographics
Hypotension occurs especially among women, adolescents and seniors.
Women are particularly often affected by low blood pressure. According to a study by the Robert Koch Institute, almost half of women under the age of 40 have low blood pressure. In men, on the other hand, low blood pressure could only be detected in every tenth. With increasing age, however, fewer women suffer from low blood pressure, but the number of men with hypotension is increasing.
During pregnancy, women are particularly prone to low blood pressure. In the first six months of pregnancy, blood pressure drops below normal, but rises again in the last trimester of pregnancy. Low blood pressure during pregnancy is, however, only dangerous when the blood pressure is too low for the placenta to sufficiently supply the unborn child with blood.
Adolescents can also be among those affected by low blood pressure. Oftentimes, the condition is a result of rapid body growth and normalises again within few years.
Elderly people are often affected with orthostatic hypotension, for example when standing up too quickly or standing for a long time. Among seniors, low blood pressure is often accompanied with dizziness which can lead to falls which can be especially dangerous for people suffering from osteoporosis. Furthermore, hypotension can be a problem for elderly people affected with cardiac arrhythmias or atherosclerosis, as vital organs may be poorly supplied with blood.
Diagnosis of low blood pressure
Low blood pressure can be diagnosed by reading ones blood pressure. In case of noticeably low values, an additional test, the so-called Schellong test, can be carried out to assess a possible orthostatic hypotension.
The Schellong test describes a method in which several measurements of pulse and blood pressure are made when standing up and lying down. First, the patient lies for about ten minutes. The blood pressure is taken. Then, the patient stands up and the blood pressure and heart rate are measured one, three, seven and ten minutes after getting up. A poor blood circulation is diagnosed when the blood pressure decreases by more than 20 mmHg systolic and 10 mmHg diastolic in standing posture.
Low blood pressure remedies
There are several measures that can be taken to prevent low blood pressure and help normalize the regulatory capacity of blood vessels.
Start your day paying some attention to your blood pressure. Alternating warm and cold showers can improve the blood circulation. Be sure to end your shower with cold water.
Light physical activity also has a positive effect on your blood pressure: especially cycling, walking, swimming, hiking, dancing, but also simply taking the staircase instead of the elevator are an improvement of your lifestyle. Do not forget to relax as well and avoid fatigue and high stress. A brush massage or yoga can help you with this.
Furthermore, make sure to have a balanced diet. Drinking at least two to three liters of water per day is important. Teas such as herbal, fruit or black tea, fruit and vegetable juices, as well as sodium-rich mineral water are likewise recommended.
If you have varicose veins, support stockings are beneficial. Lastly, be sure to lie raised (e.g. on a pillow) at night.
Low blood pressure treatment
The intake of low blood pressure medication should always be coordinated with a medical doctor. Especially in the case of primary hypotension, medication drugs are often less effective than home remedies, but have several side effects.
In general, there are two groups of active ingredients in low blood pressure medications: sympathomimetics and ergot alkaloids. These drugs act on the heart and blood vessels and increase the pressure in arteries and veins. Side effects that may occur include physical discomfort and palpitations. In rare cases, severe pain in the heart, also known as angina pectoris, may occur.