Everything You Need to Know About Low Blood Pressure
Hypotension is low blood pressure. Your blood pushes against your arteries with each heartbeat. And the pushing of the blood against the artery walls is called blood pressure.
Having a lower blood pressure is good in most cases (less than 120/80). But low blood pressure can sometimes make you feel tired or dizzy. In those cases, hypotension can be a sign of an underlying condition that should be treated.
Blood pressure is measured when your heart beats, and in the periods of rest between heartbeats. The measurement of your blood pumping through your arteries when the ventricles of the heart squeeze is called systolic pressure or systole. The measurement for the periods of rest is called diastolic pressure, or diastole.
Systole supplies your body with blood, and diastole supplies your heart with blood by filling the coronary arteries. Blood pressure is written with the systolic number above the diastolic number. Hypotension in adults is defined as blood pressure of 90/60 or lower.
What causes hypotension?
Everyone’s blood pressure drops at one time or another. And, it often doesn’t cause any noticeable symptoms. Certain conditions can cause prolonged periods of hypotension that can become dangerous if left untreated. These conditions include:
- pregnancy, due to an increase in demand for blood from both mother and the growing fetus
- large amounts of blood loss through injury
- impaired circulation caused by heart attacks or faulty heart valves
- weakness and a state of shock that sometimes accompanies dehydration
- anaphylactic shock, a severe form of allergic reaction
- infections of the bloodstream
- endocrine disorders such as diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, and thyroid disease
Medications might also cause blood pressure to drop. Beta-blockers and nitroglycerin, used to treat heart disease, are common culprits. Diuretics, tricyclic antidepressants, and erectile dysfunction drugs can also cause hypotension.
Some people have low blood pressure for unknown reasons. This form of hypotension, called chronic asymptomatic hypotension, isn’t usually harmful.
People with hypotension may experience symptoms when their blood pressure drops below 90/60. Symptoms of hypotension can include:
Symptoms can range in severity. Some people may be slightly uncomfortable, while others may feel quite ill.
Types of hypotension
Hypotension is divided into several different classifications according to when your blood pressure drops.
Orthostatic hypotension is the drop in blood pressure that occurs when you transition from sitting or lying down to standing. It is common in people of all ages.
As the body adjusts to the position change there may be a brief period of dizziness. This is what some people refer to as “seeing stars” when they get up.
Postprandial hypotension is a drop in blood pressure that occurs right after eating. It is a type of orthostatic hypotension. Older adults, especially those with Parkinson’s disease, are more likely to develop postprandial hypotension.
Neurally mediated hypotension happens after you stand for a long time. Children experience this form of hypotension more often than adults. Emotionally upsetting events can also cause this drop in blood pressure.
Severe hypotension is related to shock. Shock occurs when your organs do not get the blood and oxygen they need to function properly. Severe hypotension can be life-threatening if not treated promptly.
Treatment for hypotension
Your treatment will depend on the underlying cause of your hypotension. Treatment could include medications for heart disease, diabetes, or infection.
Drink plenty of water to avoid hypotension due to dehydration, especially if you are vomiting or have diarrhea.
Staying hydrated can also help treat and prevent the symptoms of neurally mediated hypotension. If you experience low blood pressure when standing for long periods, be sure to take a break to sit down. And try to reduce your stress levels to avoid emotional trauma.
Treat orthostatic hypotension with slow, gradual movements. Instead of standing up quickly, work your way into a sitting or standing position using small movements. You can also avoid orthostatic hypotension by not crossing your legs when you sit.
Shock-induced hypotension is the most serious form of the condition. Severe hypotension must be treated immediately. Emergency personnel will give you fluids and possibly blood products to increase your blood pressure and stabilize your vital signs.
Most people can manage and prevent hypotension by understanding the condition and being educated about it. Learn your triggers and try to avoid them. And, if you’re prescribed medication, take it as directed to increase your blood pressure and to avoid potentially harmful complications.
And remember, it’s always best to notify your doctor if you are concerned about your blood pressure levels and any symptoms you have.
Hypotension is the medical term for low blood pressure.
The pressure of the blood in the arteries rises and falls as the heart and muscles handle demands of daily living, such as exercise, sleep and stress. Some healthy people have blood pressure well below the average for their age, even though they have a completely normal heart and blood vessels. This is often true of athletes who are in superior shape. The term "hypotension" is usually used only when blood pressure has fallen so far that enough blood can no longer reach the brain, causing dizziness and fainting.
Causes and symptoms
Postural hypotension is the most common type of low blood pressure. In this condition, symptoms appear after a person sits up or stands quickly. In normal people, the cardiovascular system must make a quick adjustment to raise blood pressure slightly to account for the change in position. For those with postural hypotension, the blood pressure adjustment is not adequate or it doesn't happen. Postural hypotension may occur if someone is taking certain drugs or medicine for high blood pressure. It also happens to diabetics when nerve damage has disrupted the reflexes that control blood pressure.
Many people have a chronic problem with low blood pressure that is not particularly serious. This may include people who require certain medications, who are pregnant, have bad veins, or have arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
The most serious problem with low blood pressure occurs when there is a sudden drop, which can be life-threatening due to widespread ischemia (insufficient supply of blood to an organ due to blockage in an artery). This type of low blood pressure may be due to a wide variety of causes, including:
- trauma with extensive blood loss
- serious burns
- shock from various causes (e.g. anaphylaxis)
- heart attack
- adrenal failure (Addisonian crisis)
- severe fever
- serious infection (septicemia)
Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure in the arteries created by the heart contracting. During the day, a normal person's blood pressure changes constantly, depending on activity. Low blood pressure can be diagnosed by taking the blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer. This is a device with a soft rubber cuff that is inflated around the upper arm until it's tight enough to stop blood flow. The cuff is then slowly deflated until the health care worker, listening to the artery in the arm with a stethoscope, can hear the blood first as a beat forcing its way along the artery. This is the systolic pressure. The cuff is then deflated more until the beat disappears and the blood flows steadily through the open artery; this gives the diastolic pressure.
Blood pressure is recorded as systolic (higher) and diastolic (lower) pressures. A healthy young adult has a blood pressure of about 110/75, which typically rises with age to about 140/90 by age 60 (a reading now considered mildly elevated).
Treatment of low blood pressure depends on the underlying cause, which can usually be resolved. For those people with postural hypotension, a medication adjustment may help prevent the problem. These individuals may find that rising more slowly, or getting out of bed in slow stages, helps the problem. Low blood pressure with no other symptoms does not need to be treated.
Low blood pressure as a result of injury or other underlying condition can usually be successfully treated if the trauma is not too extensive or is treated in time. Less serious forms of chronic low blood pressure have a good prognosis and do not require treatment.
Smeltzer, Suzanne C., and Brenda G. Bare. Brunner and Suddarth's Textbook of Medical and Surgical Nursing. 8th ed. Philadelphia:Lippincott-Raven Publishers, 1996.
Arteriosclerosis — A group of disorders that causes thickening and loss of elasticity in artery walls.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
diminished tension; lowered blood pressure. A consistently low blood pressure (systolic pressure less than 100 mm of mercury) usually is no cause for concern. In fact, low blood pressure often is associated with long life. However, extremely low blood pressure may be a sign of a serious condition such as shock, massive hemorrhage, hypovolemia, or severe dehydration from nausea and vomiting. In shock there is a disproportion between the blood volume and the capacity of the circulatory system, resulting in greatly reduced blood pressure. Hypotension may also be associated with addison's disease or inadequate thyroid function, but in both cases the primary disease produces so many other symptoms that the hypotension is not a major focus for concern.
orthostatic hypotension (postural hypotension) a fall in blood pressure (usually defined as a 20 to 30 point change in pulse or blood pressure), associated with dizziness, syncope, and blurred vision, occurring when a person goes from lying down or sitting to standing; it can be acquired or idiopathic, transient or chronic, and may occur alone or secondary to a disorder of the central nervous system such as the shy-drager syndrome.
supine hypotensionvena caval syndrome.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.
1. Subnormal arterial blood pressure. Synonym(s): hypopiesis
2. Reduced pressure or tension of any kind.
[hypo- + L. tensio, a stretching]
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012
1. Abnormally low arterial blood pressure.
2. Reduced pressure or tension of a body fluid, as of the intraocular or cerebrospinal fluids.
The American Heritage® Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2007, 2004 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
hypotension↓ BP. See Exercise hypotension, Orthostatic hypotension.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
1. Subnormal arterial blood pressure.
2. Reduced pressure or tension of any kind.
[hypo- + L. tensio, a stretching]
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012
hypotensionLow blood pressure. This may be a feature of various serious conditions such as surgical SHOCK from massive fluid loss, or HEART FAILURE, but British and American medicine does not recognize the existence of a state of low blood pressure compatible with normal life activities. In Germany and other countries such hypotension is widely accepted. Postural hypotension is a drop in blood pressure occurring on standing up. This causes faintness or dizziness.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
1. Subnormal arterial blood pressure.
2. Reduced pressure or tension of any kind.
[hypo- + L. tensio, a stretching]
Medical Dictionary for the Dental Professions © Farlex 2012
Patient discussion about hypotension
Q. how can u lower your bp naturally
A. a change in lifestyle- Reducing Salt and Sodium in Your Diet, change to a healthier diet,Maintaining a Healthy Weight, Being Physically Active, Limiting Alcohol Intake, Quitting Smoking. i don't think it can take you off meds , but it can lower the amount of the considerably.More discussions about hypotension
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Synonyms for Low blood pressure:
What is another word for Low Blood Pressure?233 synonyms found
Pronunciation:[ lˈə͡ʊ blˈʌd pɹˈɛʃə], [ lˈəʊ blˈʌd pɹˈɛʃə], [ l_ˈəʊ b_l_ˈʌ_d p_ɹ_ˈɛ_ʃ_ə]
Other synonyms:•Other relevant words:
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How low should blood pressure go?
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Low blood pressure synonyms of
Low blood pressure
Low blood pressure occurs when blood pressure is much lower than normal. This means the heart, brain, and other parts of the body do not get enough blood. Normal blood pressure is mostly between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mmHg.
The medical name for low blood pressure is hypotension.
Blood pressure varies from one person to another. A drop as little as 20 mmHg, can cause problems for some people. There are different types and causes of low blood pressure.
Severe hypotension can be caused by sudden loss of blood (shock), severe infection, heart attack, or severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).
Orthostatic hypotension is caused by a sudden change in body position. This occurs most often when you shift from lying down to standing. This type of low blood pressure usually lasts only a few seconds or minutes. If this type of low blood pressure occurs after eating, it is called postprandial orthostatic hypotension. This type most often affects older adults, those with high blood pressure, and people with Parkinson disease.
Neurally mediated hypotension (NMH) most often affects young adults and children. It can occur when a person has been standing for a long time. Children usually outgrow this type of hypotension.
Certain medicines and substances can lead to low blood pressure, including:
- Anti-anxiety medicines
- Certain antidepressants
- Heart medicines, including those used to treat high blood pressure and coronary heart disease
- Medicines used for surgery
Other causes of low blood pressure include:
Symptoms of low blood pressure may include:
- Blurry vision
- Fainting (syncope)
- Nausea or vomiting
The health care provider will examine you to determine the cause of your low blood pressure. Your vital signs (temperature, pulse, rate of breathing, and blood pressure) will be checked frequently. You may need to stay in the hospital for a while.
The provider will ask questions, including:
- What is your normal blood pressure?
- What medicines do you take?
- Have you been eating and drinking normally?
- Have you had any recent illness, accident, or injury?
- What other symptoms do you have?
- Did you faint or become less alert?
- Do you feel dizzy or lightheaded when standing or sitting after lying down?
The following tests may be done:
Lower than normal blood pressure in a healthy person that does not cause any symptoms often does not need treatment. Otherwise, treatment depends on the cause of your low blood pressure and your symptoms.
When you have symptoms from a drop in blood pressure, sit or lie down right away. Then raise your feet above heart level.
Severe hypotension caused by shock is a medical emergency. You may be given:
- Blood through a needle (IV)
- Medicines to increase blood pressure and improve heart strength
- Other medicines, such as antibiotics
Treatments for low blood pressure after standing up too quickly include:
- If medicines are the cause, your provider may change the dosage or switch you to a different drug. Do not stop taking any medicines before talking to your provider.
- Your provider may suggest drinking more fluids to treat dehydration.
- Wearing compression stockings can help keep blood from collecting in the legs. This keeps more blood in the upper body.
People with NMH should avoid triggers, such as standing for a long period of time. Other treatments include drinking fluids and increasing salt in your diet. Talk to your provider before trying these measures. In severe cases, medicines may be prescribed.
Low blood pressure can usually be treated with success.
Falls due to low blood pressure in older adults can lead to a broken hip or spine fracture. These injuries can reduce a person’s health and ability to move about.
Sudden severe drops in your blood pressure starves your body of oxygen. This can lead to damage of the heart, brain, and other organs. This type of low blood pressure can be life threatening if not treated right away.
If low blood pressure causes a person to pass out (become unconscious), seek treatment right away. Or call 911 or the local emergency number. If the person is not breathing or has no pulse, begin CPR.
Call your provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms:
Your provider may recommend certain steps to prevent or reduce your symptoms including:
- Drinking more fluids
- Getting up slowly after sitting or lying down
- Not drinking alcohol
- Not standing for a long time (if you have NMH)
- Using compression stockings so blood does not collect in the legs
Hypotension; Blood pressure - low; Postprandial hypotension; Orthostatic hypotension; Neurally mediated hypotension; NMH
Calkins HG, Zipes DP. Hypotension and syncope. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 43.
Schrigern DL. Approach to the patient with abnormal vital signs. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 7.
Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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