Blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day, and often there are no signs of low blood pressure, but sometimes hypotension can trigger headaches. Blood pressure is the pressure that blood flow exerts on artery walls during the heart's beating cycle. Blood pressure that is too high or too low can cause symptoms like headaches.High blood pressure (hypertension) is very common, affecting nearly
High blood pressure (hypertension) is very common, affecting nearly half of adults in the United States, so much emphasis is placed on preventing and treating it. However, low blood pressure (hypotension) can also cause symptoms, and it can even be a side effect of hypertension treatment.
This article discusses signs of low blood pressure, including headaches, and ways to prevent low blood pressure.
A normal blood pressure is considered less than 120/80 milligrams of mercury (mmHg). The top number is called the systolic reading and the bottom number is the diastolic reading. They correspond to the different parts of the heart's beating cycle.
Hypotension occurs when blood pressure is low and causes symptoms. This varies by individual. For example, someone whose resting blood pressure is typically high may experience symptoms of low blood pressure at a higher level than another individual.
While there is no specific cutoff for blood pressure to be called hypotension, a blood pressure below 90/60 mmHg in an otherwise healthy person may be considered low.
Headaches can have a range of causes. Low blood pressure is just one of many possibilities.
Low blood pressure can cause the following symptoms:
A sudden drop of blood pressure is more likely to cause symptoms of hypotension, such as headache, fatigue, and dizziness. Sudden drops in blood pressure may be life-threatening, depending on the cause.
Orthostatic hypotension is a common cause of sudden blood pressure drop that occurs with standing. This can be caused or worsened by dehydration, certain medications (particularly those used to treat high blood pressure), problems with the nervous system (dysautonomia), and Parkinson's disease.
Orthostatic hypotension, also known as postural hypotension, is a condition of low pressure that is especially common in older adults taking blood pressure medication. In orthostatic hypotension, blood pressure drops with postural changes, such as going from lying to sitting or standing. It is defined by either of the following:
Other, more serious causes of a sudden blood pressure drop include the following:
While having high blood pressure is much more common than having low blood pressure, long-standing low blood pressure can also contribute to headaches and other symptoms.
Causes of chronic hypotension include the following:
If low blood pressure is found to be a cause of your headaches, there are some steps you can take to keep your blood pressure up.
Ensuring that you are well-hydrated is one of the most important things you can do to combat hypotension.
While the amount of necessary fluid intake varies per person based on body weight, activity levels, and environment, one way to ensure you are drinking plenty of water is to pay attention to urine color. Pale yellow urine color is normal, whereas dark-colored urine is an indicator of dehydration.
You may have heard that eating a lot of salt can cause high blood pressure. In fact, the body needs salt to hold onto water. Those who have low blood pressure may benefit from increasing the amount of salt in their diet. Some people with orthostatic hypotension may be prescribed salt tablets for this reason.
Make sure that you are also getting adequate levels of vitamins and minerals, since deficiencies of vitamin B12, folic acid, and iron can contribute to hypotension.
In addition to hydration and nutrition, some other lifestyle considerations can help prevent hypotension, particularly for those with postural hypotension:
Discuss medications with your healthcare provider to ensure that none of your current medications could be causing or worsening low blood pressure. There may be alternatives or dosing adjustments that can be prescribed.
In some cases, medications midodrine and fludrocortisone may be used to help increase blood pressure or help with symptoms of low blood pressure.
A sudden drop in blood pressure that is accompanied by other symptoms should prompt you to seek medical care. Concerning symptoms include fainting, rapid heart rate, bleeding, chest pain, shortness of breath, and signs of dehydration, such as decreased urination.
Headaches can be caused both by very high blood pressure or low blood pressure. One of the most common causes of blood pressure drops accompanied by symptoms is orthostatic hypotension.
Preventing headaches from low blood pressure includes adequate hydration, proper nutrition, lifestyle considerations, and some medications.
Headaches can be uncomfortable and painful, especially when accompanied by other symptoms. If you suspect low blood pressure is causing your headaches, contacting your healthcare provider can help you determine the cause and discover treatment options.
While there is no specific blood pressure reading that defines hypotension, a blood pressure below 90/60 mmHg in an otherwise healthy individual may be considered low. However, some people with heart failure or liver disease may have blood pressures in the 80s, and if they do not have any symptoms from this, it's not concerning.
Severe dehydration can lead to hypotension. This can occur with large fluid losses and insufficient repletion, such as in illnesses causing vomiting and diarrhea.
Certain nutritional deficiencies can contribute to low blood pressure. For example, vitamin B12, folate, and iron deficiency can cause anemia. When severe, deficiencies of these nutrients can lead to hypotension.
Staying well-hydrated, ensuring a diet that meets nutritional requirements, and increasing salt intake can help raise blood pressure. Those who experience chronic postural hypotension can benefit from compression stockings and leg exercises.