Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)
Low blood pressure, or hypotension, certainly does not enjoy the same attention as that given to high blood pressure but is can be an equally dangerous condition.
For many people low blood pressure is not a problem and they can lead perfectly normal and happy lives with lower than normal blood pressure.
For other people however low blood pressure can result in dizziness or fainting and be indicative of such things as serious neurological, endocrine or heart conditions.
In cases of particularly low blood pressure the brain and other organs can become sufficiently deprived of oxygen and nutrients for the condition to become life-threatening.
Symptoms of low blood pressure usually arise where there is an underlying condition giving rise to a drop in blood pressure and might include dizziness, fainting, nausea, blurred vision, an inability to concentrate, pale skin (which is also often cold and clammy), fatigue, rapid and shallow breathing, depression and thirst.
There are many different things that can cause low blood pressure including:
- Pregnancy. A woman's circulatory system expands considerably during pregnancy and this naturally causes a drop in blood pressure. This is not normally a problem for an otherwise fit and healthy woman but can cause problems if blood pressure is already low at the start of pregnancy.
- Heart Problems. There are several heart problems which can give rise to low blood pressure including a low heart rate and heart valve problems.
- Endocrine problems. The endocrine system comprises those glands which produce endocrine secretions and help to control the body's metabolic activity. This includes in particular the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands, as well as the islets of Langerhans (within the pancreas), ovaries, and testes. Problems with many of these glands, such as an under or over-active thyroid, poor adrenal gland function or low blood sugar can all cause low blood pressure.
- Medication. There are a number of medications, including some over-the-counter medicines, which can lower blood pressure.
- Dehydration. Dehydration which can results from many causes including fever, vomiting, diarrhea and simply strenuous exercise can be a serious condition in itself. However, even mild dehydration can result in a fall in blood pressure.
In addition, low blood pressure can also result from such things as blood loss, severe infection, an allergic reaction and nutritional deficiencies.
Low blood pressure can be detected quite easily either by your doctor or at home using a simple blood pressure monitor. When low blood pressure is detected you doctor will then wish to find out just what is causing your low blood pressure and this may involve blood tests, an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram or other tests.
The treatment of low blood pressure depends very much on the underlying cause. In cases however where it is difficult to find the root cause your doctor may suggest any one of the following, depending upon your age and general health:
- Increasing salt intake. As a rule people are advised to reduce their salt intake to prevent high blood pressure and so it is not surprising perhaps to find that increasing salt consumption is sometimes recommended as a treatment for low blood pressure. This is not however simply a matter of adding salt indiscriminately to your food and this should only be done under the supervision of your doctor.
- Increasing water intake. Increasing your water intake protects you against dehydration and also increasing your blood volume, and thus pressure.
- Wearing compression stockings. Compression stockings can stop blood from pooling in the legs and assist circulation.
- Medication. You doctor may prescribe one of a number of blood pressure medicines.
Unlike hypertension, low blood pressure does nor normally become problematic without the presence of accompanying symptoms. This is not however always the case the best way to protect yourself against potential problems is to monitor your blood pressure regularly.
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