Why Does Blood Pressure Drop After a Meal?

Eating is a pleasurable time for most, especially when your favorite dishes are on the menu. If you have postprandial hypotension, though, meal time can cause a drop in your blood pressure, causing you to feel dizzy or light-headed. Although no definitive treatment is available, some lifestyle changes can improve this condition.

Empty dinner plate on a table after a meal. (Image: millwaukee/iStock/Getty Images)

Postprandial Hypotension

During digestion, a large amount of blood flows to your digestive tract. To help maintain a normal blood pressure, your heart rate increases and certain blood vessels constrict. If these processes do not occur, your blood pressure drops after you eat, explains MayoClinic.com. This is known as postprandial hypotension, a form of orthostatic hypotension.

Who's At Risk

Postprandial hypotension tends to affect older adults; older bodies are unable to manage changes in blood pressure as well as younger bodies. Harvard Medical School adds that age-related changes make it difficult to respond to acute changes in blood pressure. The process of digestion requires the coordination of your circulatory, nervous and digestive systems. Therefore, people with nervous system disorders such as Parkinson's disease, endocrine disorders such as diabetes and circulatory problems such as pulmonary embolism -- a blockage in the artery of the lungs -- are all at risk for postprandial hypotension.

Medications and Postprandial Hypotension

Certain medications can increase your risk of postprandial hypotension, according to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. These include blood pressure medications such as diuretics, calcium channel blockers, nitrates and beta-blockers. These drugs may lower your blood pressure too much if the dosing is not correct. Other substances such as alcohol, over-the-counter medications and some prescription drugs may adversely react with high blood pressure medication, resulting in a sudden drop of blood pressure after eating.

Symptoms

The most common symptoms of postprandial hypotension are dizziness and feeling light-headed. These can cause some to fall, others to faint. You may also experience chest pain, nausea or problems with your vision.

Treatment

No definitive treatment exists for postprandial hypotension, but making certain lifestyle changes may help, according to Harvard Medical School. Drinking 12 to 18 oz. of water 15 minutes before each meal may help prevent a dip in blood pressure. Choose whole grains, beans and protein in place of white bread, white rice and potatoes. They take longer to digest and help keep your blood pressure elevated after eating. Remain sitting between 30 and 60 minutes after each meal. This is the amount of time it takes for your blood pressure to hit rock bottom after eating. Staying still during this time is a coping technique you may find beneficial.

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