Senior Health

While high blood pressure may be the condition on your mind when your doctor brings out the sphygmomanometer, low blood pressure is something to watch out for, too. Also called hypotension, this translates to a blood pressure reading of below 90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) for the top number (systolic) or below 60 mmHg for the bottom number (diastolic). Between 10% and 20% of people over 65 have low blood pressure to some degree. This number rises to 30% for people over age 70.

What Causes Low Blood Pressure?

Many things affect blood pressure, causing it to be high or low. The foods you eat, the medications you take, and the amount of exercise you get can all affect this in your body. Low blood pressure is often a side effect of medication. Beta blockers, cold and allergy drugs like Benadryl, some diuretics like Lasix, and some anti-depressants can cause it. The dosage of prescription medications is important, too, especially for medicines that correct high blood pressure. If you’ve lost weight, make sure you let your doctor know so he or she can correct your dosage. You’ll want to control your symptoms of low blood pressure before they lead to a faint and a fall.

The 5 Main Symptoms

  1. Feeling lightheaded when standing up
  2. Dizziness after eating
  3. Blurred vision
  4. Fainting
  5. Feeling weak and tired

Adjust Your Diet

If you experience symptoms one to two hours after eating, you may have postprandial hypotension. Blood flows to your digestive tract after you eat. Usually, your heart and blood vessels compensate for this blood movement, but if you have hypotension, these mechanisms fail, leading to dizziness and lightheadedness. To correct this, try eating smaller, low-carb meals and drinking more water.

Your doctor may instruct you to adjust your diet to control your symptoms. Salt affects this symptom, so you can include more salt in your diet to raise your blood pressure. Drinking tomato juice or sports drinks can help. Dehydration can be a cause, so make sure you’re drinking plenty of water. Limit alcohol. If anemia is causing it, your doctor might want you to take B12, folic acid, or iron supplements.

Try Compression Stockings

If you’re experiencing lightheadedness or dizziness when standing up from a sitting position, this could be from blood pooling in your legs when you stand. This type is called orthostatic hypotension. Ordinarily, blood vessels constrict and your heart rate increases to move this blood to your brain. But if you have low blood pressure, this may not happen, resulting in lightheadedness. Compression stockings can help stop blood pooling in your legs. Look for thigh high or waist high ones; knee high socks might bunch and tighten, cutting off blood flow instead.

Stand Up Slowly

If you do get dizzy when you stand up from a sitting position, be aware of this trigger and be careful. Stand up slowly. If you feel dizzy when you get out of bed, pump your legs a few times before standing up to get the blood flowing. Try to avoid standing for long periods of time. If you do feel faint while standing, cross your legs.

Occasional dizziness or lightheadedness might just be a minor inconvenience, but keep an eye on your symptoms and mention them to your doctor. Low blood pressure can also be a sign of an underlying health problem. If you’re experiencing symptoms and have ruled out the possibility that a medication is causing it, ask your doctor about your symptoms. If you experience infrequent symptoms of low blood pressure, but feel fine otherwise, your doctor will monitor your symptoms.