May 27, 2014

Can Blood Pressure Become Too Low?

Are you aware of low blood pressure and what the consequences can be? Many people are not and wonder why they feel dizzy and have falls. All the news has been about high blood pressure and what this causes and to take medications for it. Yet most doctors ignore low blood pressure and do nothing to help people correct low blood pressure.

Many people with type 2 diabetes have high blood pressure and like me are taking medications for this. Yet I have a non-diabetes friend that has low blood pressure. He has had two falls in the last three months and he does not understand why. He takes no prescription drugs, but does take a daily multivitamin. He is very active and exercises at least four times a week for varying amounts of time.

After this blog appeared, I called him and asked him to come over. We covered the blog and terms to give him a better understanding. Another term for low blood pressure is hypotension. If your blood pressure is on the high end, you many think low blood pressure could be a good thing, but in reality, hypotension can be a serious condition for some people. Hypotension may be a sign that there is an underlying medical condition. If you blood pressure suddenly drops or if you have the following symptoms, please contact your doctor.
  1. Dizziness or lightheadedness
  2. Fainting
  3. Fast or irregular heartbeat
  4. Feeling weak
  5. Feeling confused
  6. Lack of concentration
  7. Blurred vision
  8. Cold, clammy skin
  9. Nausea
    10. Rapid, shallow breathing
    11. Depression
    12. Dehydration
As we covered the twelve items above, he said that number 3 and 12 above might apply at times. We continued reading the blog.

Blood pressure that drops upon standing is called orthostatic or postural hypotension. This type of low blood pressure is common in older adults. Blood pressure that drops after eating is called postprandial hypotension, and this type is also more common in older adults, as well as in people who have high blood pressure or Parkinson disease.”

The cause of low blood pressure for one person may be different for someone else. In other words, some people naturally have low blood pressure and are perfectly healthy. However, certain medical conditions can cause low blood pressure, including:

Pregnancy. This is obviously not applicable for him.

Prolonged bed rest. This he felt this did not apply as he has trouble getting his eight hours of sleep.

Heart problems. Heart failure, heart valve problems, and heart attack can lower blood pressure. He said he would ask the doctor about these, but doubted they would apply

Dehydration. Dehydration reduces blood volume, thus lowering blood pressure. He felt this could be a problem although he tries to stay hydrated.

Blood loss. Blood volume and, therefore, blood pressure, drops as a result of internal bleeding. He doubted this was the cause, but again would talk to the doctor about this.

Endocrine problems. Thyroid disease, Addison disease, low blood glucose, and nerve damage from diabetes may lower blood pressure. He was not aware of any problems this would affect.

Severe infection. If an infection enters the bloodstream, this can lead to a life-threatening drop in blood pressure called septic shock. Again, he felt this was not applicable.

Severe allergic reaction. An allergic reaction to medicine, foods, or, say, a bee sting can cause a drop in blood pressure, along with difficulty breathing, hives, and itching. This is called anaphylactic shock. My friend said no to this one.

Medicines. Since he is not on medications except for the daily multivitamin, he will discuss this with the doctor.

Vitamin B12 and folic acid deficiency. A lack of either of these B vitamins can cause anemia, which, in turn, can lead to low blood pressure. After talking about this, he said he will talk to the doctor, as he could be low in B12.

Treating low blood pressure requires doctors understand this. Sometimes low blood pressure does not need to be treated, especially if there are no symptoms or if the symptoms are very mild, such as a brief spell of dizziness upon standing. If you have any of the above-mentioned conditions that may be causing low blood pressure, your doctor needs to treat the underlying cause, such as heart failure or diabetes, or possibly change the type of medicine that you take, if you are taking any blood pressure medications.

Other treatments for low blood pressure include:
  1. Drinking more fluids
  2. Adding more salt to your diet
  3. Avoiding or limiting alcohol
  4. Wearing compression stockings
  5. Taking certain medicines, such as fludrocortisone or midodrine (Orvaten)
  6. Going very slowly from a sitting to a standing position
When we covered the above points, he admitted that he was possibly not getting enough salt and would return to adding salt when cooking. I suggested that he consider purchasing a home blood pressure monitor to help track his blood pressure regularly, and especially if he had any of the symptoms. Always let your doctor know if you have symptoms of dizziness or fainting. Just like high blood pressure, low blood pressure is treatable. I also suggested he consider purchasing a finger pulse oximeter to use to check his heart rate and oxygen use. We looked both up for cost and he felt that both the BP cuff and finger pulse oximeter were tools he should have.

He asked me to print out my blog and the blog in the link so he could reread them and take them with him to discuss with his doctor.

No comments: