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What You Don't Know About Blood Pressure

Aug 17, 2007
Most people have had a pressure cuff wrapped around their arm as part of a visit to the doctor. Most often, this is a screening process for hypertension. However, what most people don't know is that low blood pressure can be a problem, too. In certain situations, it can be a very big problem.

How Does Low Blood Pressure Happen?

While it was once thought that chronic low blood pressure may be linked to illnesses such as depression or anxiety, the truth is that more commonly it's a side effect of medications, especially cardiac drugs such as betablockers. But medications aren't the only culprits. Here are a few others:

- As you get older and slow down, your arteries tend to lose their elasticity. This can cause your pressure to dip when you're standing.

- Damage to the nerves supplying your blood vessels, caused by diabetes, can bring down your blood pressure.

- Poor nutrition, which causes the tissues making up the walls of the blood vessels to become flabby and stretched and robs the body of oxygen and nutrients, can contribute to this condition.

- Blood loss can be a major factor. In fact, if it's a situation where there's major blood loss then your blood pressure can fall to such a low level that the consequences can be fatal.

- Many of the organs in the body can develop slow bleeding which would not be noticeable at first but could result in danger to your equilibrium, your heart, even your brain.

How Do You Know If Yours Is Too Low?

90/60 mmHg is considered low blood pressure. The top number of your blood pressure reading, or the systolic pressure, represents the pressure of the blood forced through your arteries when the heart muscles contract. The diastolic pressure, which is the bottom number, represents the pressure in the arteries when the muscle of the heart relaxes after contraction.

What Are The Symptoms?

By itself, low blood pressure does not necessarily cause symptoms. However, some people may experience faintness or dizziness. Other possible symptoms can include feeling faint or dizzy when suddenly standing up (this is known as postural hypotension and is quite common in older people), or feeling lethargy or weakness. Obviously, if either of these apply to you, then you'll want to visit your doctor to rule out any potential underlying problems.

What Do You Do If You Have It?

Drugs for this situation are rarely given. More commonly, your doctor will suggest some changes in your lifestyle. There are some other things you can do as well. Wearing support stockings has been found to help some people. Other measures can include sleeping with extra pillows to keep your head raised, or even reducing the amount of medication you're taking. As always, consult with your doctor.

The Good News

Low blood pressure does not necessarily indicate poor health. In fact, it's often seen to be desirable. Research has found that people who have a low blood pressure tend to live longer than those who experience hypertension. It's only when a person becomes ill or feels dizzy, that a drop in pressure becomes a problem.
About the Author
David Silva is the webmaster for Blood Pressure Insights, a website dedicated to helping you understand hypertension, its impact on your health, and its treatment.
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