Orthostatic Hypotension

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Orthostatic hypotension facts

  • The autonomic nervous system makes changes in blood pressure and heart rate to allow the body to provide adequate blood supply to the brain when the body changes position.
  • Symptoms of orthostatic hypotension include lightheadedness, weakness, blurred vision, and syncope or passing out.
  • Dehydration, blood loss, and anemia are the most common reasons to develop low blood pressure when standing.
  • Beta blockers, other high blood pressure medications, and medications such as sildenafil (Viagra) may all cause orthostatic hypotension.
  • Vasovagal syncope may cause symptoms of fainting when the vagus nerve is stimulated by a noxious stimulus, either physical (pain) or emotional.
  • Diagnosis is often made by history and physical examination. Injury from falling is the main complication of this entity.
  • Maintaining adequate hydration is the best way to prevent orthostatic hypotension if the hypotension is caused by dehydration. However, overhydration can exacerbate congestive heart failure. Patients with CHF and orthostatic hypotension need to closely monitor fluid intake and make changes only with physician supervision.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 1/8/2014

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Orthostatic hypotension - Effective Diagnosis Question: How was your orthostatic hypotension diagnosed?
Orthostatic Hypotension - Causes Question: If known, what was the cause of your orthostatic hypotension?
Orthostatic Hypotension - Symptoms Question: What were the symptoms associated with your orthostatic hypotension?
Orthostatic Hypotension - Treatment Question: What kinds of treatment, therapy, or medication did you receive for orthostatic hypotension?
Orthostatic hypotension is a condition in which a person's blood pressure falls when going from a sitting or lying position to a standing position.

Orthostatic Hypotension and Yoga

Author: Richard Weil, MEd, CDE
Medical Editor: Jay W. Marks, MD

Viewer Question: I sometimes feel dizzy while doing some yoga stretches where the head is lower than the heart (like downward facing dog). What types of exercise should you avoid when you have low blood pressure?

Fitness Expert's Response: The medical term for your condition is orthostatic hypotension. It typically occurs in situations like you are describing when there is a sudden change in posture, particularly so when the head rises from below the heart, but it can also happen from a supine or prone position when the head is level with the heart. The reason it happens is that circulation (blood pressure) isn't forceful enough to return adequate blood to the brain and so there is a moment of dizziness. The danger is that you can pass out, and so you need to take precautions to avoid the problem.