Hypotension—a very important health issue

In the past few years, hypertension (high blood pressure) has generated a lot of interest in the medical community and in the general public. Due to an aging population, hypotension (low blood pressure) is a health issue that will also require special attention.

What is hypotension?

Before talking about hypotension, it is essential to understand how pressure is created in the blood vessels.

The heart's primary function is to pump blood, so that it flows through the blood vessels. The pumped blood exerts a pressure on the walls of the arteries and veins, which can be measured quite easily. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) using two numbers. The first number, which is higher, represents the systolic blood pressure—the pressure of the blood inside the arteries when the heart contracts. The second number corresponds to the diastolic blood pressure—the pressure of the blood that is in the arteries when the heart relaxes between two heart beats. Blood pressure of about 120/80 mm Hg is usually considered adequate.

Hypotension is defined as an abnormal decrease of blood pressure. Hypotension is commonly referred to as low blood pressure. Blood pressure is considered to be low when the systolic blood pressure is lower than 90 mm Hg. A systolic pressure of less than 50 mm Hg is indicative of severe hypotension.

What causes low blood pressure?

Low blood pressure can occur in the two hours following a meal when most of our blood flows to the organs that aid digestion. Orthostatic hypotension (or postural hypotension) can also occur when rising too quickly from a lying or sitting position to a standing position.

There are several risk factors of low blood pressure. Here are some examples:

  • hereditary predisposition
  • age over 65
  • pregnancy
  • growth period
  • anemia
  • certain heart conditions
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • diabetes

There are also several causes of low blood pressure, such as:

  • dehydration
  • alcohol consumption
  • marijuana consumption
  • heart disorder
  • serious injury
  • significant blood loss
  • certain medications

Low blood pressure is among the most common undesirable effects of medication used to decrease blood pressure, also called “antihypertensives.” Low blood pressure can also be a side effect of other medications such as:

  • antidepressants
  • sleep medication
  • antianxiety medication
  • antipsychotic medication
  • medication used to treat heart conditions

Hypotension can also be caused by a combination of several drugs. This is called "drug-interaction".

If your blood pressure is low, or if you think you suffer from hypotension, talk to your pharmacist, who can analyze your dispensing record to determine if certain medications that you take are likely to be the cause of the problem. If needed, your pharmacist can recommend safe alternatives or suggest changes in dosages to your doctor.

What are the symptoms of low blood pressure?

Low blood pressure can be preferable or acceptable in certain individuals. It becomes a health problem when it is accompanied by symptoms. Other than a lowered systolic blood pressure value, other symptoms could also appear in the case of hypotension:

  • weakness
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • light-headedness
  • fainting
  • hot flashes
  • headache
  • confusion
  • vision or hearing problems

Severe hypotension can lead to serious consequences, particularly difficulty breathing and heart problems, and requires immediate medical attention.

How can low blood pressure be prevented?

In order to avoid a drop in blood pressure, there are a few tips that can be put into practice daily:

  • Stay well-hydrated, especially during very hot periods or during sustained physical activity. Excessive sweating can cause low blood pressure, so avoid all intensive physical activity as much as possible when it is very hot.
  • If you experience vomiting, you may become dehydrated. Talk to your pharmacist if you present this symptom. He/she can indicate the course of action you should take and help you to recognize the signs of dehydration, and even how to prevent it.
  • Avoid over-consuming alcohol.
  • Avoid standing and remaining still for long periods of time.
  • Wear compression stockings. Talk to a healthcare professional to choose the ones that are best adapted to your situation.
  • Do not cross your legs when you are sitting.
  • Avoid remaining for long periods of time in very warm places, such as saunas or spas.
  • If you experience hypotensive episodes, especially after meals, limit your servings and avoid large meals.
  • If you suffer from orthostatic hypotension, stand up slowly.
  • When you awaken in the morning, sit down for a moment in your bed. Then, put your feet on the ground and stay in this position for a few minutes to allow your body to adapt to blood pressure variations. When it is time to stand up, make sure you have a solid support to hold on to, to avoid falling if your blood pressure drops.
  • If you take antihypertensives, follow the dosage. Never modify your treatment without first having spoken to your pharmacist or doctor. If you have diarrhea and vomiting, or during periods of extreme heat, don’t hesitate to talk to your pharmacist, who can inform you about the ways to prevent hypotensive episodes.

Are there treatments available for low blood pressure?

During a hypotensive episode, lie down and elevate your legs. Your feet must be above the level of your heart. You can also sit down and bend your head between your knees. Whatever position you choose, avoid standing up. Activate blood flow by placing a wet towel on the nape of your neck or by rubbing it with your hands.

The preventive measures described above are the cornerstone of the treatment. If they are inadequate, some medication could be prescribed to you following a medical evaluation. Your pharmacist will inform you about the medication, particularly about their effects, the precautions related to their administration, and their optimal use.

In conclusion, many individuals see their blood pressure decrease once in a while without any cause for alarm. However, it is important to remember that in certain cases, the appropriate measures must be taken to rectify the situation. This may even be a medical emergency. If you are unaware of your blood pressure levels, stop by the pharmacy to obtain them. You will then have the luxury of monitoring your blood pressure’s highs and lows!


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Hypotension—a very important health issue

In the past few years, hypertension (high blood pressure) has generated a lot of interest in the medical community and in the general public. Due to an aging population, hypotension (low blood pressure) is a health issue that will also require special attention.