Struggling With Low Blood Pressure? Here’s How to Handle It
Both high and low BP can be detrimental to our health and if left unchecked may even be life threatening.
Before I get into explaining why low blood pressure happens and what you can do about it, let’s understand what all this medical terminology means.
Blood pressure (BP) is the measurement of the pressure in our arteries during the active and resting periods of our heart beat. When taking a BP reading, you are told about a top reading and a bottom reading. Physicians regard a pressure of 120/80 as normal universally.
When the pressure is higher than normal we call it hypertension and when lower it is hypotension or low BP.
So, if the top reading is under 90 and bottom reading is under 60, it’s generally considered a low BP.
However, every individual is different and will show a variation in BP, so what is low for one may be normal for another and your doctor is the best person to educate you on this.
Is Low BP Problematic?
Hypotension by itself is not a problem but when you start reacting by showing symptoms then you need to address it. Some of the common symptoms associated with low BP are defined by the type you have
- Orthostatic/postural hypotension is associated with dizziness, light headedness, fainting or blurry vision when you stand up or after lying down. It may happen even 10 minutes after changing your position.
- Postprandial hypotension characterised by dizziness or fainting after eating.
- Neural mediated hypotension: This is low blood pressure from faulty brain signals. As the name suggests the brain and heart aren’t in sync so the BP drops especially after standing for long periods of time.
- Nervous system damage: A condition causes progressive damage to the autonomic nervous system causing havoc with involuntary functions like heart rate, BP, digestion and breathing.
In extreme hypotension caused by shock, which requires emergency care a person may experience: confusion, cold clammy pale skin, shallow breathing, weak and rapid pulse.
What Triggers Low Blood Pressure?
During pregnancy, with the increased demand for blood the circulatory system expands causing the BP to drop. This is normalised after the birth of the child.
Heart diseases like faulty valves, low heart rate (bradycardia), heart failure or heart attack are known to lead to a low BP.
Low blood sugars, diabetes, blood loss due to an injury or internal bleeding, infections, allergies, dehydration, and diarrhoea can all cause low BP.
Diet low on nutrients like vitamin B12 and folate are known to cause anaemia, wherein our body is unable to produce enough red blood cells hence, leads to low BP.
How to Handle Low Blood Pressure?
- Staying hydrated is probably the easiest approach to avoiding a fall in BP. Even while working/living in an air conditioned area you need at least 35ml/kg body weight of fluids daily, when it is hot and humid you may need upto 45mls/kg. Make sure to have fluids like coconut water and fresh lemon water with a pinch of salt to get both sodium and potassium.
- Eat a little more salt especially in hot and humid weather as well as during illness. An ounce of salted nuts would be a healthy way to add some salt to your diet.
- Add vitamin B12 rich foods like eggs, feta and cottage cheese, milk, and fortified cereals especially if you are anaemic. Plant food does not provide B12.
- Folate intake is another way to prevent low BP. Pulses, green leafy vegetables, meat, egg are all good sources of folate.
- High carbohydrate food may result in a dip in BP, having low carb meals has been found to be beneficial for avoiding hypotension. Small frequent meals also help.
- Avoid excess of alcohol as it is known to dilate arteries causing a dip in BP.
- Along with this exercise helps tone up and condition the body preventing blood from pooling up in your legs. While getting up from your bed sit before standing up, avoid sudden movements and try isometric exercises.
Both high and low BP can be detrimental to our health and if left unchecked may even be life threatening. With that, I wish you all good health and a normal BP always.
(Rupali Datta is a clinical nutritionist who has led teams in corporate hospitals. She has an in-depth knowledge of health care, food and nutrition – both in wellness and diseases.)
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