Recently when my colleague started experiencing light headedness, exhaustion and eventually dehydration, a doctor’s visit revealed that she had low blood pressure or hypotension. This shocked us, especially since most of us in our 20s and 30s remain oblivious to low blood pressure symptoms and resulting ailments. When we asked Dr Sindhu Nair some questions about low blood pressure and how to tackle it, this is what she had to say:
What is Low Blood Pressure? Blood pressure is expressed as systolic/diastolic, for example, 120/80. Systolic or the top number represents the pressure in the arteries as the muscle of the heart contracts and pumps blood into them. The diastolic or the bottom number represents the pressure in the arteries as the muscle of the heart relaxes after it contracts. Blood pressure is always higher when the heart is pumping (squeezing) than when it is relaxing. For most healthy adults the ideal pressure is between 90/60 to 120/80. Blood pressure below 120/80 is considered normal and above 130/80 is considered high.
Low blood pressure is defined primarily by signs and symptoms of low blood flow and not by a specific blood pressure number. Some individuals may have a blood pressure of 90/50 with no symptoms of low blood pressure and therefore do not have low blood pressure. However, others who normally have high blood pressure may develop symptoms of low blood pressure if their blood pressure drops to 100/60.
Signs and Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure: Dizziness, fainting, chest pains similar to a heart attack are signs to watch out for. In extreme cases, when triggered by a shock, persistent low blood pressure causes organs such as kidney(s), liver, heart, lung, and brain to fail rapidly.
Causes of Low Blood Pressure: Low blood pressure or hypotension can be caused due to many factors. Common causes of low blood pressure are: dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea, exercise, sweating, fever, exhaustion or heat stroke. It can also be caused due to moderate or severe bleeding. Another cause for low blood pressure can be inflammation of organs, ex: acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).
Heart Disease as a Cause for Low Blood Pressure: A few heart conditions can trigger low blood pressure too, like – weakened heart muscle, pericarditis (inflammation of tissues around the heart), pulmonary embolism (blockage of the main artery of the lung or one of the branches), bradycardia or slow heart rate-due to sick sinus syndrome or a heart block or even drug toxicity(adverse effects of dugs taken for curing a condition).
Medications that Cause Low Blood Pressure: Anti hypertensives like Calcium channel blockers, beta blockers and digoxin. can lead to low blood pressure .Diuretics like lasi and drugs used in treatment of Parkinson’s Dx, depression and erectile dysfunctions are other drugs that cause hypotension or low blood pressure. Alcohol and narcotics can also cause low blood pressure.
Other Conditions that Cause Low Blood Pressure: Other medical conditions that can cause low blood pressure are Vasovagal reaction (reaction of the nervous system that makes the heart slow), Postural hypotension (drop in pressure due to change in body position- from lying down to sitting), micturition syncope (fainting shortly after urination), adrenal insufficiency, septicemia infection in the blood and anaphylaxis (severe hypersensitivity that causes severe allergic reactions).
How is Low Blood Pressure Treated? IV fluids (intravenous therapy)plays a major role in remedying low blood pressure, as it helps cure dehydration. Blood transfusions and antibiotics can be given in case of blood loss and in septic and anaphylactic shock. Blood pressure medications can be adjusted and given depending on the severity of the situation. Blood thinners can be given in embolism or thrombosis cases. Postural hypotension can be controlled by caffeine or midodrine. Vasovagal syncope can be treated by beta blockers.
Raw beetroot juice, multi vitamin supplements, Vitamin B supplements, vitamin C and proteins can help in getting low blood pressure back on track. These nutrients improve circulation, making pumping of blood easier and thus getting help in getting the blood pressure back to normal. The most common cure is salt, which is often a life saver.
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