Low blood pressure is a common condition in older people. It can affect the quality of life of people who then suffer from discomfort, and leads to many medical consultations. What is hypotension? What are its different types, symptoms, causes and treatments?
What is low blood pressure?
Hypotension is abnormally low blood pressure. It is therefore the opposite of hypertension. Blood pressure, or blood pressure, is exerted by blood on the arteries as it circulates through the body.
It is measured by 2 values:
- Systolic pressure is that of the blood ejected by the heart into the circulatory system. This is the maximum pressure when the heart contracts.
- diastolic pressure is exerted on the arteries when the heart fills with blood. This is the minimum pressure when the heart is at rest.
Blood pressure is reflected by these 2 values: normal blood pressure is between 90/60 mmHg and 130/80 mmHg. This corresponds to 90/130 mmHg of systolic pressure and 60/80 mmHg of diastolic pressure. Below this threshold, we are in a state of hypotension.
However, depending on its activity or the time of day, the tension changes. It is taken at rest to be correctly interpreted. It is also felt differently by different people. Athletes generally have low blood pressure and a healthy cardiovascular system.
Hypotension is not a disease and it is not fatal, but it influences the quality of life and can reveal the presence of another disease. It affects all age groups, but people over 65, pregnant women and people with diabetes suffer the most: it is then necessary to consult a doctor.
3 types of low blood pressure:
Low blood pressure has the effect of less well propelling blood to the organs, then less well oxygenated. It manifests itself in different ways, commonly referred to as “voltage drop”:
- Orthostatic, or postural, hypotension is experienced when you change your body position too suddenly after a period of rest. For example, when getting up in the morning: the flow of blood to the brain takes a few seconds before being sufficient to irrigate it normally. Dizziness, visual disturbances, and even falls occur. This is the one that occurs the most in the elderly. It also affects people with diseases of the nervous system, such as Parkinson’s disease or thyroid dysfunction.
- Postprandial hypotension occurs after a meal. The blood flow is monopolized by the digestion and its organs, and the blood pressure can drop causing again dizziness or nausea. It mainly affects diabetics and those with kidney or heart failure.
- Intracranial hypotension is significant of a drop in blood volume in the cranial box, which can cause neurological disorders.
Symptoms of hypotension:
- Low blood pressure is not always accompanied by warning signs. The person most often feels fatigue, even muscle weakness, dizziness. She can :
- experience a visual disturbance (a black veil in front of the eyes)
- lose balance and fall if standing
- have nausea, heart palpitations or loss of consciousness: this is the case during vagal discomfort (a brief loss of consciousness).
Causes of low blood pressure:
Any event affecting blood volume can cause low blood pressure: for example, hemorrhage or dehydration. The latter is to be monitored in the elderly who are less sensitive to thirst. Similarly, drinking alcohol dehydrates and can cause low blood pressure. Cannabis has the same effects on blood pressure. Anemia also causes hypotension and should be treated.
Certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis, disrupt blood pressure: they affect the autonomic nervous system (or autonomic nervous system) which intervenes in its regulation via receptors detecting blood pressure. It is the same for diseases of the thyroid: it produces hormones regulating blood pressure. Dysfunction of the adrenal glands conditioning the activity of the kidneys can also induce hypotension.
Fighting against an infectious disease, or a strong allergy triggering anaphylactic shock (immediate allergic reaction) causes a strong dilation of blood vessels and a decrease in blood flow.
Some medications can cause hypotension if taken too high. This is the case of hypotensives which fight against hypertension, with a diuretic effect which reduces blood volume. Also, anxiolytics and antidepressants can lower blood pressure.
Treatments for hypotension:
The treatments are both medicinal to act on blood volume and the nervous system, and non-medicinal.
Drug treatments are prescribed when precautions are not enough to improve the symptoms of hypotensive patients.
- fludrocortisone: it increases blood volume, and is often prescribed in patients with Parkinson’s disease and diabetics;
- midodrine: it is taken after getting up in the case of persistent orthostatic hypotension despite precautions and several times a day;
- pyridostigmine in case of mild hypotension, stimulates vascular tone.
Good hydration, with the absorption of 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day, and in particular half a liter in the morning before getting up, ensures that the blood volume meets the body’s needs.
It is also necessary to ensure that its diet is sufficiently salty. The supplement can be provided with salt tablets. However, this precaution is contraindicated in the case of heart failure.
Wearing compression stockings regulates blood circulation by limiting the sudden influx of blood into the legs when the person gets up. Abdominal restraint may also be advised.
Finally, physical exercise increases tolerance to standing. About 30 minutes a day of moderate activity such as brisk walking, cycling or gardening, for example, is recommended.