Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Angelica L Dumapit

What Does Low Blood Pressure Mean?

You're familiar with high blood pressure, but do you know what low blood pressure means? This article highlights some of the most common symptoms and how to manage them.

Working with a TCM practitioner can help you manage low blood pressure.

Low blood pressure is quite common. In most cases, it causes no discomfort, making it easy to ignore the symptoms or mistake them for something else.

However, keeping your blood pressure levels in check is crucial for your health, especially if they are low or high.

In this article, you’ll learn about the different types of low blood pressure. We’ll also discuss what causes it, common symptoms, and ways to manage it.

What Are The Different Types Of Low Blood Pressure?

If you get dizzy, lightheaded, or blurry vision when you stand up, this could be a sign of low blood pressure.

The condition can be broken down into four types: orthostatic, post-prandial, shock-related and nerve-mediated. 

Orthostatic Low Blood Pressure

This disorder induces your blood pressure to drop suddenly when you stand up from a sleeping or seated position. It usually happens more frequently and severely in the morning, when it is at its lowest. This type can happen to anyone, but it’s more common as you age. It can also happen when you stand up suddenly after squatting or sitting cross-legged for long periods.

The most common sign is a feeling of dizziness when you stand. It can also be followed by nausea, blurred vision, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and a feeling of weakness. 

Postprandial Low Blood Pressure

An excessive decrease in blood pressure after eating a meal is the stand-out characteristic of this disorder. Interestingly, people who have high blood pressure (hypertension) are more susceptible to this specific disorder than others.

People with diseases or conditions that disrupt the brain’s ability to regulate internal processes can also be at risk of this type. For example, the nerves (the part of the autonomic nervous system that is responsible for digestion) also regulate the blood flow and pressure of the vessels in the gut. Additionally, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and multiple system atrophy can also make you prone to the symptoms of this disorder, such as dizziness, faintness or falls.

Shock-Related Low Blood Pressure

In a life-threatening medical emergency, shock can trigger a sharp drop in blood pressure. Consequently, this will restrict blood flow to the brain and organs, and limit their ability to function optimally.

Although medical shock is different from the psychological shock that occurs after an emotional event, it may occur following severe blood loss, infections, allergies, trauma and other causes.

Nerve-Mediated Low Blood Pressure

People who are diagnosed with this disorder will usually experience dizziness, visual changes, or slower speech or verbal responses after exercising or standing still for a long time.

Also known as a form of chronic orthostatic intolerance, this type is a complication that stems from an unnatural nerve reflex action between the brain and heart despite both organs being structurally normal.

Although genetic and familial, this condition presents in those with no cardiac or neurologic diseases. It usually happens when there is standing, minor tilting, and the heart rate increases. Then the heart rate drops along with the blood pressure.

How To Manage Low Blood Pressure

Regulating your intake of high-sodium foods may help you manage symptoms.

In Western medicine, a healthcare provider will usually prescribe treatment options for hypotension after considering the exact cause of your condition.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners, meanwhile, will encourage the use of herbal ingredients or formulations that regulate it by replenishing blood and qi.

Dietary Changes

Dietary changes are important for increasing your blood pressure. Increasing your intake of foods that are rich in sodium — soy sauce and canned ham or tuna — during breakfast is especially effective. However, it’s advisable to talk to your doctor first before adding sodium-rich foods to your diet. Too much sodium can also affect your blood pressure in a negative way. Additionally, hypotension can ironically be caused by a reaction to hypertension. So, check with your doctor first before making dietary changes.

Also, ensure that you’re drinking approximately 2-3 liters of water daily to keep it stable. Separately, it’s also important that you cut down on foods that digest quickly, such as processed carbohydrates, as they will provoke a sudden drop. It’s also important for you to consider eating smaller, more frequent meals. Overeating will lead to your body spending more energy digesting, and bring on a drop in blood pressure.

Lifestyle Changes

You can also prevent it from declining by making several adjustments to your daily living. These include wearing compression stockings and getting up slowly after you sit or lie down. You should also avoid standing for long durations, and sit and breathe deeply before getting out of bed. 

It’s also advisable for you to shower in lukewarm water instead of hot water. Hot water can cause your vessels to expand, thereby increasing blood flow and triggering a sudden drop in blood pressure. As such, places like saunas and hot springs are not recommended too as well. 

Herbal Formulas

TCM treatment for low hypotension is centered on using herbs that warm the heart, nourish blood and qi, and tonify spleen and kidney yang. 

“In terms of TCM herbs, Codonopsis (Dangshen, 党参), astragalus root (Huangqi, 黄芪) and white atractylodes rhizome (Baizhu, 白术) can tonify the spleen and boost qi. Chinese Angelica (Danggui, 当归), Rehmannia Glutinosa (Shudi, 熟地) Rehmannia Glutinosa) and red sage (Danshen, 丹参) meanwhile, can help to nourish blood and increase circulation,” explains Eu Yan Sang physician Vong U Chan. 

However, it’s worth noting that each person has a distinct body constitution. Therefore, you should get a proper assessment from a certified TCM practitioner before consuming herbs that help control it. 

Learning what is hypotension is a pivotal first step in helping you live life to the fullest. If you’re unsure as to the steps you can take to keep your blood pressure regulated, use the tips laid out in this guide.

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension)
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Low Blood Pressure (Orthostatic Hypotension).  
  3. MSD MANUAL. 2020. Postprandial Hypotension.  
  4. MedicineNet. 2020. What is Shock?  
  5. MEPedia. Neurally mediated hypotension
  6. Elsevier. Fisiopatología del síncope neuralmente mediado. 2016.

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