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When Is Blood Pressure Too Low?

The “normal” blood pressure is considered to be around 120/80, with levels above 140/90 considered to be “hypertension” and numbers below 90/60 designated as “hypotension”.  Life insurance companies had done numerous studies to show that the lower the blood pressure, the lower the risk of dying (i.e. longer life expectancy).  Hence, having a low blood pressure seems like a good thing.  However, when is blood pressure potentially dangerous from a health standpoint?

Severe hypotension (shock) can be caused by sudden loss of blood (shock), severe infection, heart attack, abnormal heart rhythm or severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Orthostatic hypotension means your blood pressure drops 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:

  • Alcohol
  • Anti-anxiety medicines
  • Certain antidepressants
  • Diuretics
  • Heart medicines, including those used to treat high blood pressure and coronary heart disease
  • Medicines used for surgery
  • Painkillers 

Symptoms of low blood pressure may include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Weakness

The bottom line: If a person is feeling perfectly well, yet a low blood pressure is present, no major workup is needed to find the cause unless the blood pressure is much lower than previously.  However, if symptoms are present a visit to the doctor is a great idea for testing to find the reason(s) and then initiate corrective actions.

Boz Scaggs released a song in 1995 entitled “High Blood Pressure”.  Clearly, this was not one of his famous tunes so I will post one of his winners…enjoy “Georgia”.

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