Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is low blood pressure?

Low BP is a common problem but is often seen as somehow less important than high BP.
But hypotension causes major problems for many people

There are many reasons why your BP level might be too low. This page explores the causes of low blood pressure and provides treatment options

The words "low blood pressure" and "hypotension" mean the same thing and both are used on this page
It can be difficult to define what is meant by low blood pressure. There are clear definitions for high BP but no corresponding figure that signifies a formal diagnosis of hypotension or low BP.

So - what is a low blood pressure?

Well, if 1000 people had their BP measured we might expect to find a spread of readings ranging from as high as 200 / 120 down to as low as 80 / 50 with most people clustering around the middle of the range at around 130 / 85. The vast majority of these people would have no symptoms of any kind – no matter what their BP reading actually was.

In many countries – the UK and the USA included – a lower blood pressure in itself is regarded as a sign of excellent health. Provided of course that there is not some underlying other disease or medication that is causing the BP to drop in an abnormal way. Many “super fit” athletes develop a very low resting BP level as a result of their excellent heart fitness.
Is it normal or abnormal to have a low BP level?
The answer to whether it is normal or abnormal to have a low BP depends on what is the normal blood pressure reading for that individual.

Normal Low Blood Pressure

If you have always have low BP readings of around 90 / 50 (or even lower perhaps) for the whole of your life then without doubt you have “low blood pressure” but there is nothing wrong with you or with your low BP reading. You should be pleased that your risk of stroke or other disease will be much less than many others in the population and it is very unlikely indeed that you will experience any symptoms. Your level is normal for you and needs no investigation or treatment.
Symptoms found with “normal low BP ”?
None. This BP level may be low but it is normal for you and your body has adapted to it. There are no particular symptoms of a low BP associated with this version of the condition.
What are the causes of “normal low BP ”?
None. This low BP level is simply a reflection of the way you are made genetically and many of your family may show similar readings

Abnormal low blood pressure

If your BP is usually around 130 / 80 and suddenly or gradually drops to a level around
90 / 50 then it is very likely that you will become aware of hypotension symptoms related to this change.

As in the above example you have “low blood pressure” but in this instance it is not normal for you to have readings this low. You may need to see your doctor for tests because it is quite likely that some other disease or perhaps a medication has caused your BP to drop. Someone who develops a low BP level like this will often experience symptoms of low blood pressure such as those listed below. This is not a 
natural blood pressure level for most people.

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