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ASK THE DOC: what to do if you have low blood pressure


By Alasdair Fraser

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Low blood pressure can be caused by a number of things.
Low blood pressure can be caused by a number of things.

Q. My doctor thinks my blood pressure might be too low. What does this mean?

A. Low blood pressure – sometimes referred to as hypotension – is a condition where the arterial blood pressure is abnormally low. Blood pressure is a measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body.

On its own, low blood pressure (hypotension) does not always cause symptoms. If you have low blood pressure and you do not have any symptoms, you do not require treatment. However, low blood pressure can sometimes mean that there is not enough blood flowing to your brain and other vital organs. As a result, you may experience dizziness, fainting, light-headedness, blurred vision, palpitations (a rapid or irregular heartbeat), confusion, nausea, or general weakness.

The following general advice will help to limit your symptoms of your hypotension. Stand up gradually, particularly first thing in the morning. It may also be useful to try some other physical movements first to increase your heart rate and blood flow, such as stretching in bed before you get up.

Wear support stockings – sometimes called compression stockings. These are tight-fitting elastic socks or tights. They provide extra pressure to your feet, legs and abdomen, which will help stimulate your circulation.

Raise the head of your bed or use extra pillows under your head. This will increase the flow of blood in your body.

Avoid caffeine at night and limit your alcohol intake – this will help you to avoid dehydration.

Eat small frequent meals, rather than large ones.

The symptoms of hypotension can usually be treated by making these small changes to your lifestyle and by increasing your fluid and salt intake.

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