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Living With...Low Blood Pressure

How Much Do You Know About the Dangers of Low Blood Pressure?

There’s a lot of information about the dangers of high blood pressure, but low blood pressure can endanger your health, too.

1. How is low blood pressure (hypotension) defined?

A. Blood pressure reading of 100/80 mm Hg or lower

B. Blood pressure low enough to cause lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting

C. Blood pressure reading of 120/100 mm Hg or lower

D. Blood pressure reading lower than 140/90 mm Hg

The correct answer is B. Blood pressure low enough to cause lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting.

Low pressure is often defined as a blood pressure reading below 90/60. The exact level that marks low blood pressure differs from person to person. Although chronic low pressure may be a sign of disease, it also can mean good physical conditioning. Athletes often have low blood pressure. Work with your healthcare provider to figure out your blood pressure goals.

Your healthcare provider will diagnose your low blood pressure based on symptoms, such as feeling dizzy or faint, especially upon standing. This is sometimes a side effect of taking certain medicines, including medicines for high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart conditions. It can also happen from medical problems such as:

  • Diabetes

  • Dehydration,

  • Acute illness, such as the flu

  • Not drinking enough fluids on a hot day or during exercise 

2. Which type(s) of medicines may cause low blood pressure?

A. Antidepressants

B. Blood pressure medicines

C. Sedatives

D. All of the above

The correct answer is D. All of the above.

In addition to these medicines, other drugs can cause hypotension. These include medicines for heart disease and diuretics, medicines for erectile dysfunction, and opioid (pain) medicines. Depending on how long you are taking a medicine, low blood pressure can be short-term or chronic.  

3. Which health condition may cause low blood pressure? 

A. Diabetes 

B. Parkinson disease

C. Heart valve disorders

D. All of the above

The correct answer is D. All of the above.

Low blood pressure can be caused by many different things. Damage to the nervous system, which can occur in diabetes and Parkinson disease, can get in the way of the body's normal methods of regulating blood pressure. A heart valve disorder can decrease the amount of blood the heart pumps. Other health problems such as hypothyroidism, parathyroid disease, and Addison disease can also cause low blood pressure.

4. Which of these symptoms is most likely a result of a sudden drop in blood pressure?

A. Vomiting

B. Headache

C. Cold hands and feet

D. Fainting

The correct answer is D. Fainting.

Fainting (syncope) occurs with low blood pressure because with this condition, the heart isn't able to pump enough oxygen to the brain. The brain is the organ highest up in the body, where it is hardest for blood to overcome the effect of gravity. So the brain is the first to feel the effect of low blood pressure. When a person faints from low blood pressure, he or she falls to the floor, putting the person's head on the same level as his or her heart. Blood flow then can increase to the brain. 

5. A very fast heartbeat (tachycardia) or a very slow heartbeat (bradycardia) can affect the heart’s pumping ability and cause low blood pressure and fainting. Which of these has proved very successful in regulating the heartbeat to maintain a normal blood pressure?

A. Medicine

B. Exercise

C.Surgically implanted pacemaker

D.A and C

The correct answer is D. A and C.

The NHLBI says that a heart rate that is too slow can be corrected with a pacemaker. This is an electronic device put in place by a surgeon that stimulates heartbeats. A heart rate that is too fast can be slowed by using medicines such as beta blockers.

6. Older adults with high blood pressure or Parkinson disease are at particular risk for a sudden blood pressure drop after:

A. Eating a meal 

B. Walking

C. Drinking caffeinated beverages

D. Eating salty food

The correct answer is A. Eating a meal.

This is called "postprandial hypotension." Older adults with Parkinson disease or high blood pressure should be especially careful when standing up after eating. Sometimes eating small, low-carbohydrate meals may help reduce symptoms. 

Summary

Low blood pressure is pressure that is low enough to cause symptoms. If you have low blood pressure, you can take steps to prevent or limit your symptoms. A single lower-than-normal reading is not cause for alarm, unless you are having symptoms that are new or worrisome. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have symptoms, such as:

  • Dizzy spells

  • Lightheadedness

  • Nausea

  • Fainting

  • Unsteadiness when walking

Work with your healthcare provider to figure out your blood pressure goals.  

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 5/1/2018
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