How do you recognize low blood pressure and what can you do about it?

Low blood pressure does not necessarily mean that something is wrong right away. Some people have blood pressure values that indicate that they actually have low blood pressure, but because they are not bothered by it, nothing needs to be done. A general practitioner will measure blood pressure, but will only prescribe medication if the low blood pressure is actually having an effect on the patient’s health. Low blood pressure can also be a symptom of an underlying condition. It is important to always rule this out before ignoring low blood pressure because it doesn’t bother you.

We speak of low blood pressure when it is so low that it causes symptoms. Or if the systolic pressure is less than 90 or the diastolic pressure less than 60.

What is low blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure in your blood vessels.

  • When your heart contracts, pushing your blood into the body, the pressure in your blood vessels is at its highest. This is called the upper pressure.
  • When your heart relaxes again it creates a lower pressure. We call this the negative pressure.

Your blood pressure is constantly changing. When you run hard, your blood pressure is higher than when you sit quietly.

Normally, the upper blood pressure is lower than 140 and the lower pressure lower than 95 mmHg.

  • Men have low blood pressure at values below 110/70 mmHg.
  • Women have low blood pressure at values below 100/60 mmHg.
What are the symptoms of low blood pressure?

Common symptoms of low blood pressure are:

  • Dizziness, starry or blurry vision and seeing black in front of the eyes
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Disturbed intestinal flora
  • Palpitations & arrhythmias
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Tinnitus
  • Weakness.

Low blood pressure does not always cause symptoms. There are people who almost always have low blood pressure without having any symptoms. Therefore, one does not always need to worry about low blood pressure. If there are any symptoms of (constantly) low blood pressure, it is necessary to see a doctor. The most common symptom of low blood pressure is dizziness. This usually occurs suddenly, for example when you suddenly stand up. The blood then has insufficient power to flow through the veins, so that the brain and lungs do not receive enough blood. The best thing to do then is to sit down again for a while, so that your body can settle down again. You may even faint. Even then, it is necessary to rest for a while before continuing. Low blood pressure can also cause (severe) fatigue and difficulty concentrating.

What are the causes of low blood pressure?

Low blood pressure can have many causes and it can also be inherent in an individual. Some people simply have lower blood pressure by nature. In some cases, there is an underlying cause or condition. Causes of low blood pressure may include:

  • Blood loss from bleeding, an accident or heavy menstruation.
  • Infections that require you to vomit a lot or have diarrhea.
  • During pregnancy.
  • Taking medications for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, antidepressants and sleep aids.
  • Drugs for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease,
  • Many other medications.
  • Heart problems.
  • Diabetes.
  • Orthostatic hypotension: dizziness and/or fainting from standing up too quickly.
  • Postprandial hypotension: low blood pressure after meals (especially in the elderly).
  • Fluid loss or fluid deprivation due to fever, exercise, sauna use, or major burns.
  • Stress.
  • Fever
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Hot weather.
What to do when blood pressure is too low?

General measures to raise blood pressure:

There are a number of things you can do to raise too low blood pressure. This is only necessary if you are experiencing symptoms of low blood pressure and there is no underlying condition.

  • First and foremost, it is important to drink enough water to prevent fluid deprivation. The color of the urine is a simple method to see if the body contains enough water: the darker, the less water.
  • Also eat enough salt, unless you have to follow a low-salt diet of course. You can do this by sometimes using an extra bouillon cube or adding some extra salt to your food. Be careful with salt, because too much salt is not good for your brain, kidneys and adrenals. Are you often dizzy? Then use a normal amount of salt. This is up to 6 grams per day.
  • You can also reach for licorice-based tea or dietary supplements containing berberine. These can remedy too low blood pressure. Do not take these drugs or dietary supplements without medical advice. In fact, it is not always necessary to treat too low blood pressure.
  • Make sure you have enough exercise, even if you have to stand still for a long time. Do not suddenly stop exertion, but “phase out” movement for a while.
  • If you are involved in sports, an endurance sport such as walking and swimming is probably better than a sport with a peak load (such as sprinting). If your bed has an adjustable headboard, turn it up. Avoid standing for long periods of time. Don’t sit down, even though others may find it strange.
  • If you go to the sauna or take a hot bath, get up slowly. The blood vessels open up more due to the heat and this can aggravate low blood pressure and cause symptoms.
  • If you use medication, such as diuretics, and are ill and drink less, consult your doctor about temporarily reducing your medication intake.
  • As you get older, you may want to think about stopping medications that can cause low blood pressure. For example, stopping a blood pressure lowering medicine or stopping a medicine for urinary problems. Discuss this with your doctor at HelloDoc Health.
Ways to quickly raise your blood pressure

If you feel the lightheadedness coming on, you should be careful because you are close to fainting and unconsciousness and then you could fall. You can then do the following:

  1. Sit down or squat down. At home, you can make sure there is a chair or a stool in places where you sometimes have symptoms (for example, at the top of the stairs). Some people take a folding stool with them when walking so they can sit anywhere.
  2. Crossing your legs and pushing them together. This increases blood pressure and can be done standing or sitting. If you already have balance problems, it is best not to do this while standing.
  3. Making firm fists; this also raises blood pressure.
  4. Tightening your buttocks; this also increases blood pressure.
  5. Try to sit down, because you cannot suppress your symptoms. And if you stay standing you may faint.

Your doctor at HelloDoc can demonstrate and practice these movements with you. Not all of these ‘tricks’ work equally well for everyone. Which one works for you you can try yourself.

More information or would you like to make an appointment with one of our doctors?

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Sources: SHE. Health ClinicsHartstichtingMaastricht UMCViataLUMC

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