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Low blood pressure means that your blood pressure is lower than normal. Another name for low blood pressure is hypotension (say "hy-poh-TEN-shun").
In most healthy adults, low blood pressure does not cause problems or symptoms. In fact, it may be normal for you. For example, people who exercise regularly often have lower blood pressure than people who are not as fit.
But if your blood pressure drops suddenly or causes symptoms like dizziness or fainting, it is too low. It can cause shock. Shock can be dangerous if it is not treated right away.
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the blood pushes against the walls of your arteries as it moves through your body. Blood pressure consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic.
Someone with a systolic pressure of 120 and a diastolic pressure of 80 has a blood pressure of 120/80, or "120 over 80." Normal blood pressure is lower than 120/80.
Low blood pressure does not have a specific number where it is too low. Most doctors consider blood pressure to be too low when it causes symptoms or drops suddenly. In general, low blood pressure symptoms happen when blood pressure is less than 90/60.
Some of the causes of low blood pressure include:
Many people with low blood pressure don't have any symptoms.
Symptoms to watch for include:
If you have symptoms of low blood pressure, especially dizziness or fainting, call your doctor.
Watch for symptoms of low blood pressure. Tell your doctor when the symptoms happen so he or she can treat them.
Often people learn that they have low blood pressure when their doctor checks it. Or you may find that you have low blood pressure when you check it at home.
To check for the causes of your low blood pressure, your doctor will ask about your past health, your symptoms, and the medicines you take. He or she will do a physical exam and may do other tests. Your doctor may check for another health problem that could be causing your low blood pressure.
You will likely get treated for low blood pressure only if it is causing symptoms or if your blood pressure drops suddenly. Treatment depends on your symptoms, how severe they are, and the reasons for the low blood pressure.
Your doctor may have you:
Be sure to talk with your doctor before you add more salt to your diet or make any changes in your medicines.
If you have orthostatic hypotension, your doctor may suggest that you try some simple ways to prevent symptoms like dizziness. For example, you can:
If you feel dizzy or lightheaded, sit down or lie down for a few minutes. Or you can sit down and put your head between your knees.
This will help your blood pressure go back to normal and help your symptoms go away.
Other Works Consulted
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2010). Hypotension. Available online: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/hyp/hyp_all.html.
American Heart Association (2009). Low blood pressure. Available online: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Low-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301785_Article.jsp.
June 2, 2011
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Rakesh K. Pai, MD, FACC - Cardiology, Electrophysiology
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