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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Do you have low blood pressure?

I have had many queries over the years about low blood pressure. Its surprising how many young women say they have it and it certainly is common among endurance athletes. I thought I would put pen to paper and give my take on the "problem".

The symptoms of an abnormally low blood pressure can include:
  • Feeling light headed
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Being tired or feeling fatigue on exertion
  • Fainting, transient blurring of vision, or transient confusion.
A special mention about Athletes
These symptoms are common among endurance trained athletes. The vascular bed in the legs may be huge and the blood may easily pool in the legs. Combined with fatigue from training, a little dehydration, possibly mineral depletion as well, and a tired heart and the athlete may come close to passing out upon standing up too quickly. This is because the blood drops out of the head momentarily, thus causing dizziness. In the female athlete, anaemia should be suspected and checked out by a blood test.
What is normal, high and low Blood Pressure?
Normal blood pressure is around 120/80. Blood pressures above about 145/95 require intervention. I have occasionally measured pressures higher than 200/150.
Low blood pressure is about 90/50 and sometimes lower (Mine used to drop lower than this when over-trained).
Possible causes of low blood pressure
  • Medications for anxiety
  • Medications for blood pressure
  • Heart medications, diuretics
  • Some anti-depressant medications.
  • Mixing medications with alcohol
If you are showing symptoms of low blood pressure from medication, go back to your doctor and ask for a review. You are at risk of injury through inattention that may result in a potentially serious mishap like a fall or a car crash.

Non medication
  • Dehydration
  • Heart disease and heart valve disease
  • Recent heart attack, changes in heart rhythm
  • Bacterial infection in the system
  • Kidney diseases
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Other undisclosed illness like anaemia
  • Bleeding
  • Extreme dieting
If you develop low blood pressure and the cause is not obvious, get it checked out by a doctor.
An aside about cardiovascular safety
Healthy or unhealthy blood pressure: consider keeping an automated blood pressure machine handy at home. Changes in blood pressure and resting pulse can be your first indicator of an illness developing. Most heart attacks, for example, have subtle warnings beforehand, like feeling tired, a shoulder strain or a touch of the flu - and unusual pulse and blood pressure changes. The earlier the respnse, the better the outcome.
Manage Your Heart with!

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