The lowdown on low blood pressure
If you were born with blood pressure on the low side, that’s good news – but there are still a few things worth knowing about this condition.
Having low blood pressure in your genetic make-up means you don’t face the risk of developing heart problems or having a stroke as a result of high blood pressure. However, a sudden drop in blood pressure can indicate something more serious.
What is considered low blood pressure?
Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is a blood pressure measurement of 90/60mm Hg* or below. A normal or ideal blood pressure reading is between 120/80 and 90/60mm Hg. Blood pressure can vary considerably over short periods, depending on:
- body position
- stress levels
- physical conditions
- time of day – usually lowest while someone sleeps.
Most people with chronically low blood pressure aren’t even aware of it, and if you have consistently low readings yet feel fine your doctor may just monitor you.
*Millimetres of mercury, a measure of blood pressure that refers to the height to which the pressure in the bloodvessels can push a column of mercury.
If the symptoms trouble you
However, if you have feelings of dizziness or occasional fainting, you need to see your doctor, says Dr John Benjamin, a cardiologist at Mediclinic Morningside. Other symptoms that may arise from low blood pressure include nausea, blurred vision or a general feeling of weakness. Chronic fatigue is not usually linked to low blood pressure.
‘If these symptoms occur only when you stand up, or if you change position quickly from lying down to sitting up, you could have what we call “postural hypotension”,’ Dr Benjamin explains. ‘It’s usually not a serious condition and the symptoms are more irritating than anything else.’
‘Your doctor will take your blood pressure, first lying down, then standing,’ says Dr Benjamin. If necessary, your doctor will prescribe medication to treat your hypotension. Dr Benjamin advises that you keep well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. ‘Elastic stockings also work for some people,’ he adds. These are called compression stockings and they gently squeeze your legs to move the blood upwards.
When low blood pressure may indicate another condition
If you’ve never had low blood pressure and then develop it, you also need to see your doctor. Among the reasons for this may be age, pregnancy, dehydration, some medications and a host of chronic or acute conditions which can be discussed with your doctor.
If you want to lower your blood pressure
Most athletes have slower heart rates and low blood pressure because their cardiovascular system is working more efficiently – which proves the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.
If someone doesn’t have naturally low blood pressure or time to train like an athlete, they can benefit from lifestyle adjustments. Doing at least 30 minutes of brisk walking or vigorous garden and house work at least five days a week can lower blood pressure, as can following Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH). This diet involves reducing sodium intake and eating a variety of foods rich in nutrients such as potassium, calcium, and magnesium.