Any regular doctor checkup will involve a check in on your blood pressure. And, just like high blood pressure (hypertension), low blood pressure (hypotension) can lead to plenty of health problems.
Doctors and researchers know that certain things can increase the chances of developing low blood pressure. But how low is too low for blood pressure? Let’s look at what those causes are…
1. Orthostatic Hypotension (Postural Hypotension)
Orthostatic hypotension is considered a main category of low blood pressure. It happens after a person gets up too quickly after they’ve been sitting or lying down.
Orthostatic hypotension can be caused by a lot of things, including prolonged bedrest and dehydration, and its symptoms include:
- Lightheadedness and dizziness
- Blurry vision or “seeing stars”
- Fainting (syncope)
- Confusion or change in mental status
With orthostatic hypotension, these symptoms develop after a person goes from lying down to sitting, or from sitting to standing, and the next cause can also cause similar feelings…
Your body, organs, tissues, and even your blood is all made mostly of water. If you don’t replenish your body regularly with fluids, then your blood volume can start to decrease since there will be less water in it. This means your blood will take up less space and won’t be able to exert as much pressure against the blood vessel walls.
This explains why being dehydrated can lead to low blood pressure, but that’s not the only thing that can make your blood pressure too low…
Some medications cause low blood pressure as an unexpected side effect. Certain people may be more at risk to experience this side effect depending on how they take the medication and if they have any other underlying health problems.
Common medications that can cause low blood pressure include:
- Diuretics (Lasix/furosemide)
- Heart medications like beta-blockers
- Certain types of antidepressants
- Some drugs for Parkinson’s disease
- Some drugs for erectile dysfunction
Talk to your doctor about all the medications you’re taking and be sure you understand what the common side effects are.
4. Heart Problems
Problems with the way a heart works can affect how blood is circulated throughout the body. In some cases, a troubled heart causes a blood pressure drop. Such troubles include:
- Heart valve problems
- Low heart rate (bradycardia)
- Irregular heart rate (atrial fibrillation or a-fib)
- Heart attack
- Congestive heart failure
Keep in mind it’s not just the heart that can cause low blood pressure…
5. Endocrine Problems
The endocrine system is a large network of organs, tissues, hormones, and chemical messengers that influence many functions in the body. Certain health conditions affecting the endocrine system and endocrine organs can lead to low blood pressure. These conditions may include:
- Addison’s disease
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Parathyroid disease
The next symptom might be more common…
6. Severe Infection or Allergic Reaction
An infection that gets into the bloodstream (sepsis) or a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) can trigger a strong immune system reaction and release toxins and other chemicals into the blood. Sometimes, this can cause the blood vessels to widen, which leads to a sudden drop in blood pressure.
These conditions can be life-threatening, so it’s critical to seek medical attention immediately, just as you should with the following…
7. Severe Blood Loss or Trauma
Severe blood loss can occur on the inside of the body (such as a bleed in the digestive tract) or on the outside of the body (due to a severe wound or traumatic amputation). If the body loses enough blood, this will cause there not to be enough blood in the blood vessels, and this causes blood pressure to drop.
Such blood loss can be a cause of:
- Visual injuries, such as broken bones, active bleeding
- Unusual bruising, pain, or swelling
- Decreased red blood cells (anemia)
- Shock (confusion, cold clammy skin, weakness, rapid pulse)
Not all causes on this list are traumatic, but still need medical attention, including the next one…
8. Nutrient Deficiency or Insufficiency
Your body needs a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in order to support normal function, tissue growth, and repair. For example, Vitamin B12, iron, and folate are important nutrients that help your body make red blood cells.
If you don’t have enough of these nutrients in your diet—or if your body can’t absorb these nutrients properly from the food you eat—your body may start to have too few red blood cells. The result? Anemia, which can sometimes make blood pressure too low. If your blood pressure is too low, raise nutrient intake with approval from your physician.
This next cause might come as unexpected…
When a woman becomes pregnant, her circulatory system will expand and grow in order to supply enough blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the growing baby and the placenta. Sometimes, this can lead to decreased blood pressure.
If you’re pregnant, be sure to check in with your doctor or OB/GYN regularly and let them know about any unusual signs and symptoms you may have.
What are the potential complications of low blood pressure that make this condition potentially dangerous? The next slide explains in further detail…
Is Low Blood Pressure Dangerous?
Some people have low blood pressure all the time without any symptoms or issues. But if a person’s blood pressure gets very low or drops too quickly, then a variety of complications can happen.
Some of these complications can be serious or even fatal. They can include:
- broken bones
- brain bleeding
- pale/clammy skin
- rapid breathing
- organ damage
Other Unpleasant Symptoms
In addition to these complications, a person with too low blood pressure may exhibit a number of uncomfortable signs and symptoms, including weakness, dizziness, and fatigue. These signs and symptoms aren’t specific to low blood pressure and can happen because of other conditions, too.
These signs and symptoms aren’t specific to low blood pressure and can happen because of other conditions, too.
Given the potential complications of low blood pressure, it pays to know how to spot hypotension if you think you have it.