While most people are more concerned about their blood pressure being too high, an abnormally low blood pressure can also cause problems. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg, but a level less than 90/60 is generally considered too low. Lower-than-normal blood pressure, or hypotension, can cause symptoms as there is too little pressure in your circulatory system to ensure adequate blood flow to your brain and other organs. There are many possible causes of hypotension, so it's important to see your doctor if you have symptoms, such as lightheadedness or fainting. If serious causes are ruled out, your doctor may suggest some natural ways to relieve mild, occasional hypotension.
Dehydration is a common cause of occasional low blood pressure. You can become dehydrated from severe vomiting or diarrhea. If you have frequent diarrhea due to a medical condition or medication, proper hydration is also crucial. Even forgetting to drink enough fluid in the course of a busy day can lower your blood pressure. During the summer, it is even easier to become dehydrated because you can lose a lot of fluid by sweating in the heat. If you have poorly controlled diabetes, you can lose a lot of fluid by urinating frequently. Some medications, such as water pills, may also dehydrate you. Being well hydrated can raise your blood pressure if the cause is dehydration.
You may be taking a prescription medication that lowers your blood pressure without you even knowing it. While medication for hypertension is expected to lower your blood pressure, a variety of other medications have the unwanted side effect of decreasing blood pressure as well. For instance, some medications used to treat depression or anxiety lower blood pressure. Some painkillers can also drop your blood pressure. Read about the potential side effects of any medication you take, and ask your doctor for advice before you stop taking any medication.
Once your doctor has evaluated you, she might recommend some physical maneuvers to avoid occasional dips in your blood pressure at home. For instance, if your blood pressure commonly drops when you stand or sit up, she may suggest getting up more slowly or gradually to minimize symptoms. Depending on the cause of your low blood pressure, your doctor might suggest other maneuvers to raise your blood pressure and decrease your symptoms or your risk of fainting.
Depending on the cause of your low blood pressure and your other medical conditions, your doctor may have additional suggestions for you. For example, some people get low blood pressure after eating meals, in which case eating smaller but more frequent meals may be recommended. Or your doctor may recommend that you increase your salt intake -- but do this only if your doctor specifically advises you to do it. Minimizing your alcohol intake may also help you maintain a healthy blood pressure. Some doctors recommend elevating the head of the bed 10 to 20 degrees when you sleep or wearing custom-fitted elastic stockings to keep your blood pressure from dropping too low.
Symptoms associated with low pressure sometimes indicate a serious problem that requires immediate medical care. If you develop chest pain, shortness of breath, heart racing, severe dizziness or stroke symptoms -- such as slurred speech or weakness, especially on one side of your body -- call 911 for immediate assistance.
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- Primary Care for Women; Phyllis Carolyn Leppert and Jeffrey F. Peipert
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- UpToDate: Treatment of Orthostatic and Postprandial Hypotension