Low blood pressure otherwise known as hypotension is a serious medical condition just as high blood pressure. In layman’s term, blood pressure is the pressure exerted on the arterial walls of the arteries through which blood passes in the body. The blood pressure is a measure of two values- diastolic pressure and systolic pressure depicted in this form- Systolic pressure/diastolic pressure.
The systolic pressure is the amount of pressure generated by the heart when pumping blood through the body, while the diastolic pressure is the amount of pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest. The normal blood pressure according to current guidelines is 120/80mmHg. While blood pressure is not always constant at any given time, low blood pressure could be regarded as normal (according to some experts) if its not lower than 90mmHg and 60mmHg for systolic and diastolic pressures respectively, however sudden spikes or lows in blood pressure may trigger life threatening effects, a sudden drop of 20mmHg in the systolic pressure could cause dizziness and fainting spells for instance.
Causes of low blood pressure could range from lifestyle choices, diets to medical conditions. You may generally have a drop in your blood pressure at a particular time of the day or depending on how long, and the quality of aerobic exercises you do, your body posture, stress etc. So also increase in environmental temperature may cause hypotension though it may be brief. So also at times, if you eat ‘heavy’ foods, you may start feeling dizzy as a result of diversion of blood to your gut for digestive process to be effective depending on the volume of the food.
What causes low blood pressure?
The following are the causes of low blood pressure, this list is not an exhaustive list of conditions that can predispose one to having low blood pressure but they are some of the best keys to look out for while examining hypotension.
1. Low red blood-cells count
Have you ever been in a situation where your doctor tells you to run a Pack Cell Volume (PCV) blood test to evaluate your full blood-cell count? It is a way to find the missing link why you have a drop in your blood pressure. In each blood types that we have- red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other lymphatic cells, a drop in the count of your red blood cells can cause hypotension.
2. Septic shock (Septicemia)
Septic shock results from septicemia. Septicemia is an infection which could get its way into the blood-stream thus causing a sharp drop in the blood pressure, it could be life-threatening if not treated instantly. It has led to the death of many, though sometimes it presents subtle physical symptoms.
3. Lack of nutrients – Vitamins in your diet
Lack of adequate vitamins especially ascorbic acids- (Vitamin B6), cyanocobalamin (vitamin B12) and folates can have drastic impact on your blood pressure if they are absent from your diet for too long. Folates especially can be obtained from vegetables alot, its absense in your diets for a protracted period of time can trigger anaemia, provided that every other factors remain constant.
4. Hormonal problems
Medical conditions such as adrenal insufficiency (a condition in which the adrenal glands doesn’t produce adequate cortisol- a steroid hormone), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can all result from parathyroid diseases which generally do have drastic impact on the hormonal glands that parathyroid secretions controls. These conditions trigger drop in blood pressure.
Diabetes which depends on insulin can also at times trigger hypotension if not managed properly.
Our body is made up of considerable amount of water. A 2% dehydration in the body can easily inform your central nervous system to trigger ‘thirst’ impulse , when it lingers for too long, you may start experiencing body weakness and dizziness.
6. Allergy-related conditions
Allergens get into our body through several channels, some of which are beehives, foods, certain medications, insect bites. Allergens can be life-threatening when they trigger anaphylaxis which is life-threatening, and may impact your blood pressure without notice.
I prefer to mention this under a separate sub-heading as it is a major cause of hypotension. There are certain drug types such as antidepressants (tricyclics) e.g. Doxepin, Trimipramine etc. So also, sexual libido boosters such as Sidenafil or Cialis when used with certain heart medications can trigger hypotension. More over, other drugs such as diuretics (e.g. Furosemide and Microzides), hypertension medication drugs (Beta blockers) such as Atenolol, Timolol etc. are all examples of medications that could lead to drop in blood pressure, so also an overdose of these beta blockers do cause sudden and drastic drop in blood pressure.
8. Neurological disorders
Nerve-related disorders such as parkinson’s disease affect the nerves. If your autonomic nervous system is affected by virtue of this disorder, it could cause a widening of your blood vessels which in return triggers drop in blood pressure as more volume of blood flows through the arteries per time. So also neurological breakdowns may cause miscommunication between the brain and the heart, one instance of this is that your brain tells your heart that your blood pressure is on the high side when it is actually low, this could cause a further steep in the blood pressure.
Low blood pressure has been found to be genetic in nature, i.e. if one of your parents has it, there is a likehood of you to have it.
10. Low body temperature
Hypothermia of the body could reduce the blood pressure drastically to the level of stopping the heart from beating if its not controlled instantly. This is the cause of snow deaths.
11. Sit down for too long
When you sit down for too long, you might experience a sharp drop in blood pressure while standing up, this is referred to postural hypotension where blood pools in the lower extremeties of the body. This is as a result of the failure of the autonomic nervous system to stimulate the vital organs that will restore the body to its normal status. This may persist until it is corrected except if it is not a regular occurence.
Pregnancy-induced hypotension may also be postural in nature. When pregnant mothers sit around for longer periods of time, while standing up from that position, they may experience fatigue due to a sharp drop in blood pressure. The combined weight of the mother and the developing foetus could be so much that it leads to a large pooling of blood around the waist area which may lead to postural hypotension.
Generally, low blood pressure causes the following:
- Dizziness and fainting spells
- nervous break-down in cases when anaemia is the leading cause of hypotension. The brain suffers most in such cases, and the vital parts in the brain suffers in return, and in extreme cases could lead to brain-death.
- It could result in cyanosis (a condition where the skin develops a blue-green coloration due to inadequate supply of oxygen to the underlying tissues )if it persists for too long a time.
- It may cause break down of vital organs in the body if low blood pressure persists for long.