Can Blood Pressure Be Too Low?

Person getting blood pressure taken
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While blood pressure that is too high can pose a serious risk to health, low blood pressure is generally of little concern. As long as you’re not experiencing any symptoms of low blood pressure, doctors don't worry about the effect of blood pressure because consensus in the research community has shown there is no such thing as blood pressure that is “too low.” 

Blood pressure considered optimal is systolic pressure that is lower than 120 and diastolic pressure that is lower than 80, otherwise expressed as lower than 120/80 mm Hg.

Generally speaking, the lower your blood pressure is, the better. In fact, studies have shown that the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases continues to fall even as blood pressure falls below 120/80.

Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure

However, some people experience troubling symptoms of low blood pressure, also called hypotension, that may cause them to seek the advice of a doctor, and how low blood pressure can fall before symptoms develop is different for everyone. As long as you feel OK, “low numbers” are nothing to worry about. Note that this is exactly the opposite as high blood pressure -– even blood pressure that is high enough to be an immediate health risk usually doesn’t cause any symptoms. You may feel fine even though your pressure is dangerously high.

When blood pressure drops so low that blood flow to organs is compromised, symptoms will develop. Common symptoms of low blood pressure that may prompt a visit to your doctor include:

  • Dizziness
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration and excessive thirst
  • Decreased urine output
  • Fatigue when exercising
  • Fainting
  • Lack of concentration
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Depression

Low Blood Pressure Causes

If your blood pressure drops stays lower than what is normal for you for a prolonged period of time, or you experience persistent symptoms of low blood pressure, your physician may want to look for an underlying cause.

 The treatment for low blood pressure will depend on its cause. 

Various conditions can cause chronically low blood pressure, including: 

  • Bed rest for an extended period of time
  • Pregnancy
  • Decrease in blood volume as a result of blood loss
  • Certain medications
  • Certain heart problems 
  • Endocrine conditions
  • Severe infection 
  • Anaphylaxis (severe allergic reaction) 
  • Certain nutritional deficiencies such as a lack of vitamin B-12 or folic acid

If you’re concerned that your blood pressure may be too low, or if you’re having symptoms of low blood pressure, contact your doctor at once, but do not stop taking your medications unless told to do so. Several high blood pressure medications require a period of weaning in order to stop taking them, and suddenly stopping them can cause potentially serious side effects. Most common is “rebound hypertension,” a drug-induced condition that causes a sudden, dramatic increase in blood pressure, sometimes to dangerously high levels.

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