We are all familiar with the health concerns associated with high blood pressure. But did you know there is such a thing as low blood pressure? Just like high blood pressure, low blood pressure can be an indication of underlying medical problems too.
A doctor will tell you that an optimal blood pressure reading is below 120/80mm Hg. And, your doctor will also tell you that lower is generally better when it comes to blood pressure. Some people naturally have a lower-than-average blood pressure level and there isn’t really a “too low” rate for normal day-to-day health. As long as it isn’t accompanied by other health related concerns, a low blood pressure reading is completely fine.
Low blood pressure accompanied by signs of trouble
However, there are instances when low blood pressure is a sign of trouble. For the most part, doctors are more concerned with how quickly blood pressure falls rather than how low it goes. Rapid decrease in blood pressure is cause for alarm.
If chronically low blood pressure or rapidly reduced blood pressure is accompanied by these signs and symptoms, there is probably something major happening in your body.
- Dizziness or light headedness
- Dehydration and excessive thirst that isn’t cause by fever, vomiting, severe diarrhoea, or strenuous exercise
- Lack of concentration
- Blurred vision
- Cold, clammy, pale skin
- Rapid, shallow breathing
- Excessive fatigue
Causes of low blood pressure
There are several underlying health conditions – varying in levels of seriousness – that can cause low blood pressure. Most of these health conditions are treatable or temporary.
- Continuous bed rest
- Pregnancy (low blood pressure is very common in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy)
- Significant loss of blood, most commonly cause by major trauma or internal bleeding
- Certain medications like diuretics, beta blockers, Parkinson’s disease drugs, antidepressants, and erectile dysfunction drugs
- Abuse of narcotics and alcohol
- Heart problems like a dysfunction heart valve, heart attack or heart failure
- Endocrine problems like complications with a hormone-producing gland, under-active thyroid, or diabetes
- Severe infection cause by septic shock (when bacteria leaves the original site of infection and enters the blood stream, producing toxins that affect the blood vessels)
- Anaphylactic shock caused by an allergic reaction to penicillin, peanuts, bee or wasp sting
- Nutritional deficiencies like a lack of vitamin B12 or folic acid
When to see the doctor
If you experience chronic low blood pressure, keep track of the activities you are engaged in when the drop occurs. When you do go to the doctor, this information will be helpful for a diagnosis. If you think your low blood pressure is caused by recent dehydration, low blood sugar, or too much time in the sun, your doctor will want to know how quickly your pressure dropped (as opposed to how low it went). If you experience dizziness or light headedness, you should consult your physician. While low blood pressure isn’t generally a cause for alarm, if left untreated it can eventually start to deprive the brain and other vital organs of oxygen and nutrients. Don’t wait for the condition to become life threatening – consult a doctor.