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Low blood pressure is not always harmless but take these symptoms seriously – Warns Expert

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Kuldeep Singh
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It is better to have your blood pressure too low than too high. However, low blood pressure can be a sign of serious illness and sometimes even cause a heart attack. 

An expert detailed about important symptoms, self-treatment, and why drugs can even harm.

Too high blood pressure damages the blood vessels, which is beyond question. It should be different if the blood pressure is too low. The popular opinion is that blood pressure cannot actually be low enough because it protects blood vessels and organs. 

But that is not entirely true, because in the case of low blood pressure, or medical hypotension, a distinction must be made between whether a healthy, young person is affected, or someone who is sick or significantly older.

Low blood pressure, these are the values

According to the WHO, the ideal blood pressure values ​​are 120 to 80 mmHg. Doctors speak of low blood pressure with these values:

  • Women below 100 to 60 mmHg and
  • Men under 110 to 70 mmHg

There are no exact figures as to how many people are affected. “However, it is clear that there are significantly fewer people with low blood pressure than with too high,” adds the expert.

Because low blood pressure is not considered a disease. Countermeasures usually only need to be taken when symptoms occur.

Low blood pressure: the typical symptoms

Dizziness is one of the main signs of low blood pressure. The following can also occur:

  • Visual disturbances
  • tinnitus
  • Fainting
  • a headache
  • Unsteadiness of gait
  • Racing heart

“If symptoms occur, you should have them checked up, regardless of whether you are young, old, sick or healthy,” advises the cardiologist.

Causes of the three forms of hypotension

Blood pressure that is too low is medically divided into different forms depending on the causes.

1. The primary, constitutional low blood pressure is simply a matter of type: Young, tall and very slim women who do not do sports are particularly affected. There is no clear cause of primary hypotension.

2. It is different with secondary low blood pressure, which occurs as a result of certain circumstances or illnesses. First and foremost, these are lifestyle and luxury foods that are driving blood pressure into the basement. 

Drinking too little in particular – a great risk for seniors – leads to a loss of volume in the blood vessels and thus a drop in blood pressure.

Other causes that cause vasodilation, i.e. open the vessels and lower blood pressure:

  • Intoxications with alcohol and other intoxicants, for example
  • nicotine
  • Sunbathing

The following diseases are also possible causes:

  • endocrine metabolic disorders, such as thyroid dysfunction
  • cardiovascular diseases associated with decreased vasoreactivity. Vasoreactivity is the ability for the vessels to become wider and narrower as required.
  • neurogenic disorders (the smallest nerves that dilate and constrict the vessels are impaired in their function, which can occur in diabetes, for example)

Hypotension is also often caused by high-dose antihypertensive drugs such as ACE inhibitors, sartans, beta blockers or calcium channel blockers.

3. In addition, orthostatic hypotension is listed medically as the third form of hypotension. Symptoms such as dizziness show up when you stand up. The systolic blood pressure falls by more than 20 mmHg and/or the diastolic blood pressure by more than 10 mmHg within three minutes. The symptoms disappear immediately when sitting or lying down. Background: The blood pressure drops when you stand up and does not regulate itself immediately, as is normally the case. The causes for this largely coincide with those of secondary hypotension.

In young people, low blood pressure is more likely to be beneficial

But how dangerous is low blood pressure actually? For young, healthy people, low blood pressure is more likely to have a good health prognosis because it hardly puts any strain on the organism. In addition, according to the expert, in this age group, as they grow up, the blood pressure usually normalizes itself.

Low blood pressure can make the elderly more likely to fall

It looks different with older people. With them, the vascular tone and the vaso-responsiveness are already limited. If the blood pressure is then too low, symptoms such as severe dizziness can occur, which lead to a dangerous situation. 

“If an elderly person becomes dizzy and stands in front of a staircase, for example, he can fall,” warns the professor.

Heart attack risk may increase with low blood pressure

In addition, low blood pressure can be dangerous for people who already have cardiovascular disease, such as coronary artery disease (constrictions in the coronary arteries). The doctrine used to be that their blood pressure should be reduced as much as possible with medication in order to protect the heart and blood vessels. Today medicine takes a more differentiated approach.

“If the blood pressure drops below 120 or even 110 mmHg in patients with critical coronary stenosis, for example, a heart attack can be triggered,” warns the expert. Too much lower blood pressure is therefore unfavorable in the elderly and people with cardiovascular disease, which is now known from recent large studies.

Low blood pressure is only optimal for heart failure

Heart failure is an exception, however, when the heart muscle is weakened, adds the expert. If the blood vessels are normal and healthy, the blood pressure must be reduced to a large extent in order to relieve the muscle. 

“Some patients then have values ​​below 100 mmHg and are symptom-free, so they have no dizziness and the like because the body compensates for that,” he reports from the practice. So there is no such thing as blood pressure that is too low in heart failure.

What helps against low blood pressure

Depending on the cause, there are different ways to normalize blood pressure. If an illness triggers the hypotension and if it is treated, the blood pressure rises again. If the doses of antihypertensive drugs are too high, a gradual reduction in medication administered under medical supervision helps.

The cardiologist advises otherwise healthy people, both young and elderly, to take the following measures against low blood pressure:

  • Drink enough
  • Drink as little alcohol as possible and do not smoke
  • Avoid full sun
  • Exercise your vessels with contrast showers
  • Endurance sports like brisk walking and cycling are cheap

More salt and coffee for low blood pressure?

It could also be advisable to consume a little more salt and caffeine, the blood pressure drivers. Here, however, the expert warns. While salt would increase blood pressure, it would trigger a number of unfavorable processes in the body, such as increasing the risk of water retention. 

In addition, there are no solid studies that show a positive effect of increased salt consumption on low blood pressure. There is nothing wrong with coffee in a reasonable way.

For a long time, experts were divided on whether the “upper” or the “lower” blood pressure reading is more important. US scientists have now carried out their own study on the question – and found that both values ​​are important. 

  • A healthy heart beats as regularly as an old-fashioned pendulum clock. If it starts racing or pounding irregularly, it scares us. Not every heart stumble is threatening.

Self-medication for low blood pressure

And what about medication for blood pressure that is too low? In pharmacies and the Internet, lots of them are available over the counter. Many of them are based on alpha sympathometics like etilefrine. These active ingredients narrow the blood vessels and thus raise blood pressure. 

“Especially when you are older, you should not take these drugs without medical advice, because they can cause blood pressure and heart rate to rise sharply,” warns the cardiologist. If there are critical constrictions in the coronary arteries, this could ultimately lead to a heart attack.

He also advises against herbal medicines for low blood pressure. 

“The idea that phytopharmaceuticals are always good and harmless is not true.”

Often these products contain a lot of alcohol and that is one of the reasons why they are welcome.

Conclusion: Of course, it is important for health that everyone, whether young or old, controls their blood pressure. Values ​​below 110 mmHg should be clarified by a doctor, especially if symptoms such as dizziness and others occur. Because low blood pressure is not always harmless. It can be triggered by an illness that requires treatment, lead to falls in the elderly and, last but not least, increase the risk of a heart attack in people with certain cardiovascular diseases.

Image Credit: Getty

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