You may know that having high blood pressure can lead to health problems – but what about low blood pressure?
Blood pressure measures the force your heart uses to push blood to different parts of your body. It’s given as 2 numbers – 120/80, for example. The first number is the pressure when your heart pushes blood out, and the second number is the pressure when your heart rests between beats.
Normal blood pressure is generally between 90/60 and 120/80. Low blood pressure (hypotension) is when it falls below 90/60.
Read on to learn more about low blood pressure, including what it might mean for your health if you have it.
What happens if you have low blood pressure?
Some people naturally have low blood pressure, and it doesn't cause any problems. However, if your blood pressure is lower than usual for you, it can mean that the amount of blood flowing to your brain and other organs falls.
Abnormal low blood pressure can lead to symptoms including:
- feeling sick (nausea)
- blurred vision
- feeling weak
- a rapid or irregular heart beat (palpitations)
Read more about other causes of dizziness and nausea.
Why do people get low blood pressure?
Sometimes, low blood pressure can happen when you stand up suddenly. Your body doesn’t respond quickly enough and blood stays in your legs, causing a drop in blood pressure. This is known as postural hypotension and it’s quite common, especially in older people.
If you’ve been standing for a long time, this can also cause blood pressure to drop, and you may feel sick or faint. This is called reflex fainting or neurally mediated hypotension, and it can also be triggered by pain, emotional stress or fear. It’s more common in children and young people.
In rare cases, severe low blood pressure can be caused by a serious medical condition, and needs immediate medical attention.
What are the complications of low blood pressure?
The symptoms of low blood pressure can be unpleasant. What’s more, symptoms such as feeling dizzy, weak, having poor vision or fainting can put you at risk of injury, as you might fall. If blood pressure falls really low, it can lead to a life-threatening condition called shock.
Risk of injury from falls
Although many falls don’t cause serious injuries, they can cause broken bones – in the ankle, arm or hip, for example – or even head injuries, which can be very dangerous.
Shock is a life-threatening condition when your body’s organs don’t get enough blood, which limits the amount of oxygen they get and stops them from working properly.
When to see a doctor about low blood pressure
If you’re getting some symptoms of low blood pressure, it’s a good idea to check in with your doctor. You should always see your doctor if you’re regularly getting dizziness and fainting.
If you have signs of shock, get urgent medical help. Symptoms include confusion, cold, clammy and pale skin, fast and shallow breathing, and having a weak and rapid pulse.
What can you do to treat low blood pressure?
In some cases, low blood pressure isn’t cause for concern and won’t need treatment. You may have inherited it from your parents, or it could be a result of becoming fitter and healthier. It can also happen with age.
If low blood pressure causes symptoms, however, you might need treatment, which will vary depending on the cause. For example, your doctor may offer to change your current medicines, or suggest that you wear support stockings. These can improve circulation and increase blood pressure.
How to ease low blood pressure symptoms at home
- when getting up from sitting, stand up slowly
- when getting out of bed, move slowly from lying to sitting then standing
- raise the head of your bed slightly
- eat smaller meals, more often
- avoid standing up suddenly after a meal
- drink more water to stay hydrated
- avoid consuming too much caffeine or alcohol
- low blood pressure is a measurement of less than 90/60
- you can naturally have low blood pressure, and it might not cause symptoms
- symptoms of low blood pressure include dizziness, feeling sick, blurred vision, feeling weak and fainting
- see a doctor if you’re having dizziness and fainting regularly
- get urgent medical help if you have symptoms of shock