How to measure blood pressure

Low blood pressure is a reading of 90/60 or lower. Low blood pressure is treated with home care and medications.
Low blood pressure is a reading of 90/60 or lower. Low blood pressure is treated with home care and medications.

A reading of your blood pressure is taken to estimate its pressure as it flows through your arteries. There are two numbers associated with blood pressure:

  • Systolic: This is the higher number and measures blood pressure during a heartbeat.
  • Diastolic: This is the lower number and measures blood pressure in between heartbeats.

What is low blood pressure? 

What is considered normal blood pressure for one person may be different for another person. You may naturally have blood pressure that averages higher or lower. However, once blood pressure gets out of a normal range it can cause other health problems. 

Generally speaking, normal blood pressure is 120/80. It is usually considered low once it reaches 90/60. Once it reaches this level, you may begin to experience the symptoms of low blood pressure. A sudden drop in blood pressure is a sign that there may be a more serious medical condition affecting you.

Many people with low blood pressure won’t even know they have it. You may occasionally feel light-headed or tired unexpectedly. Your vision may become blurry and your heart may begin to beat irregularly. 

Symptoms of low blood pressure

If you feel dizzy, light-headed, and suddenly tired or weak, low blood pressure may be to blame. Other symptoms of low blood pressure may include:

Causes of low blood pressure

Medications you take may raise or lower your blood pressure. Age is one of the greatest factors impacting your blood pressure. You may see that as you get older your blood pressure trends higher or lower.

Sometimes your blood pressure is affected by other medical conditions, such as: 

Who gets low blood pressure? 

Low blood pressure can affect anyone, but the elderly are the most affected population. In fact, many older adults take medication to treat high blood pressure and experience the side effect of their blood pressure dropping too low.

Healthy, active adults and high-level athletes often have lower blood pressure.

Women are also likely to experience low blood pressure in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. 

Diagnosis for low blood pressure

Your doctor will check your blood pressure and then ask you questions about any episodes you’ve experienced to find out if low blood pressure is the cause. Blood work or urinalysis can also provide results that indicate low blood pressure.

If your doctor suspects that another medical condition is lowering your blood pressure, you’ll need to complete more specific tests to learn more. If another condition is discovered, treating it can have a positive impact on your blood pressure.

Treatments for low blood pressure

Home care

At first, your doctor may ask that you make changes to your diet and exercise routine to see if improvements are possible without medication. Following a heart-healthy diet is great for managing your blood pressure.

Some people see results from adding salt to their diet. You may have to make other diet changes like drinking more water and eliminating alcohol and caffeine.

Medications

You may need to make changes in your medication to manage your blood pressure. It is more common to prescribe medication that lowers your blood pressure than to raise it. If your doctor suspects that a current medication is causing your blood pressure to drop, you may need to stop it and try something new.

Possible complications and risks

In some cases, your blood pressure can drop so low that your body goes into shock. This is because without proper blood flow your organs don’t get enough oxygen. Signs that your body is going into shock include feeling clammy with cold but sweaty skin, faster breathing, and a rapid pulse. 

If you experience these symptoms it is imperative that you seek medical attention. The greatest risk lies in not addressing your low blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about any blood pressure-related concerns you have. 

SLIDESHOW

Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension): Symptoms, Signs, Causes See Slideshow

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Medically Reviewed on 1/28/2021
References
SOURCES:

American Heart Association: "Low Blood Pressure - When Blood Pressure Is Too Low."

Harvard Health Publishing: "Reading the new blood pressure guidelines."

Michigan Medicine: "Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "Low Blood Pressure."