High blood pressure is the attention-grabbing condition in medical checkups, but it turns out that low diastolic blood pressure symptoms may cause problems too. Often some lifestyle changes can alleviate symptoms an get your numbers headed back in the right direction.
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What Is Low Diastolic Pressure?
The second (or bottom) number of the two digits in your blood pressure reading indicates your diastolic blood pressure, which is a measurement of the pressure in your arteries as your heart muscle relaxes after a contraction, explains the American Heart Association (AHA). The first, or top, number represents your systolic blood pressure, indicating how much pressure results from the force exerted by your heart when it beats.
The AHA notes that a normal blood pressure reading is less than 120 over 80. One number is not more important than the other, but a low diastolic number — often referred to as hypotension — can indicate you aren't getting enough oxygenated blood in your heart. Over time, this may lead to weakening of the heart muscles.
Low diastolic blood pressure — less than 60 millimeters of mercury — is more common in older women and can be a concern because it's been found to be a risk factor for heart failure, as noted in the October 2016 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
Low Diastolic Blood Pressure Symptoms
"Low blood pressure by itself is not a cause for concern," says Erika Schwartz, MD, a New York-based physician who specializes in combining conventional and integrative medicine_._ "But when symptoms start occurring, then that's when you should look at ways to counteract it."
Several common symptoms may indicate that you need a blood-pressure check, the AHA notes.
- The first is dizziness or feeling lightheaded, especially when you change position. For example, if you're reaching down to a bottom shelf for a grocery item and pop up to put it in your cart, you may get a "head rush" feeling.
- The second major symptom is brain fog, which can make you feel disconnected or spacey, or even mess with your short-term memory, Dr. Schwartz says.
- There's also fatigue, especially the kind that makes you feel
like you're dragging through your day. Since you're not getting enough
oxygenated blood into your system, your muscles may feel weakened.
Less-common symptoms include blurred vision and nausea, according to the Mayo Clinic.
What You Should Do
If you've taken your blood pressure and that bottom number looks low, there are some steps you can take to raise diastolic blood pressure quickly.
1. Rule out medication side effects. Several medications can cause low blood pressure, according to the Mayo Clinic, including diuretics, beta blockers and certain types of antidepressants. Consult your doctor to rule out bradycardia, a condition where your diastolic pressure gets lower as a side effect of a particular medication or combination of medications. Bradycardia is usually treated by medication tweaking, which must be done by a doctor.
2. Drink more water. Rule out mild dehydration, a common cause of hypotension, according to the Mayo Clinic. Drink plenty of fluids, preferably drinks with electrolytes, while cutting out alcohol. Alcohol is dehydrating and can lower blood pressure, even if consumed in moderation, the Mayo Clinic advises. Water combats dehydration and increases blood volume. Be sure to re-measure your blood pressure to see if the diastolic number rises.
3. Get salty. Those with high blood pressure are always warned against salt intake, and this has created a general anti-salt attitude, notes Dr. Schwartz. "Culturally, we have the mentality that salt isn't good for you," she says. "But we need it to maintain normal blood pressure and to support the adrenal system."
This might mean adding more salty foods to your diet, along with drinking a cup of water with 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt added to it. If your doctor suggests increasing your sodium intake, but you don't care for salty foods, the Mayo Clinic suggests that you consider soy sauce, which contains 1,200 milligrams of sodium in a tablespoon. Another alternative is to add dry soup mixes to salad dressings or food dips because they contain high levels of sodium.
Always continue to measure your blood pressure while trying any combination of dietary or home remedy treatments — and be sure to check with your doctor if you have any questions or concerns.
- Erika Schwartz, MD, concierge physician, New York City
- American Heart Association: “Understanding Blood Pressure Readings”
- Journal of the American College of Cardiology: “Diastolic Blood Pressure, Subclinical Myocardial Damage, and Cardiac Events: Implications for Blood Pressure Control”
- Mayo Clinic: “Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)”