The elderly are susceptible to problems maintaining a stable blood pressure. While high blood pressure is more common, some elderly adults suffer from chronic or intermittent low blood pressure. Also called hypotension, this condition is considered problematic when it produces symptoms, the American Heart Association explains. Common symptoms include dizziness, tiredness, nausea and fainting. There are several potential causes for low blood pressure in the elderly.
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Spending a prolonged time in bed due to illness, injury or an incapacitated state can lead to severe orthostatic hypotension, the Merck Manual of Geriatrics states. This type of low blood pressure occurs when the person attempts to stand after lying or sitting for a long period.
Dehydration can cause low blood pressure in the elderly. It frequently occurs due to poor eating habits, which can result from several factors: lack of hunger, dental problems, reduction of the sense of smell or taste, depression, poverty or inadequate access to food. The thirst mechanism may not be working properly, allowing the individual to become dehydrated without realizing it.
Post-prandial hypotension is common among the elderly. This type of low blood pressure occurs after a meal; it is thought to be due to the blood traveling to the organs of digestion. In a healthy young adult, the body compensates for the change, but an older individual may suffer low blood pressure for an hour or so after a meal. According to the Merck Manual of Geriatrics, post-prandial hypotension is more common after breakfast or lunch.
Some prescription medications can cause hypotension in the elderly. Common offenders include medicines taken for heart health or to treat high blood pressure, including calcium channel blockers, alpha blockers, beta blockers, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, nitroglycerin, angiotensin II receptor blockers and diuretics, taken to reduce excess fluid. Narcotic pain medications, anti-anxiety medicines, drugs to treat impotence and drugs for Parkinson's disease may also cause low blood pressure.
A poorly pumping heart may not have the ability to keep pressure in the arteries at an adequate level, resulting in low blood pressure. While it can happen at any age, heart failure is more common among the elderly. It often begins after a heart attack.