Low blood pressure is a reading below 90/60 mm Hg. Many issues can cause low blood pressure. Treatment varies depending on what’s causing it. Symptoms of low blood pressure include dizziness and fainting, but many people don’t have symptoms. The cause also affects your prognosis.
Hypotension, or low blood pressure, is when your blood pressure is much lower than expected. It can happen either as a condition on its own or as a symptom of a wide range of conditions. It may not cause symptoms. But when it does, you may need medical attention.
Hypotension has two definitions:
Measuring blood pressure involves two numbers:
Low blood pressure is below 90/60 mm Hg. Normal blood pressure is above that, up to 120/80 mm Hg.
Because low blood pressure is common without any symptoms, it’s impossible to know how many people it affects. However, orthostatic hypotension seems to be more and more common as you get older. An estimated 5% of people have it at age 50, while that figure climbs to more than 30% in people over 70.
Hypotension can affect people of any age and background, depending on why it happens. However, it’s more likely to cause symptoms in people over 50 (especially orthostatic hypotension). It can also happen (with no symptoms) to people who are very physically active, which is more common in younger people.
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Low blood pressure symptoms include:
For people with symptoms, the effects depend on why hypotension is happening, how fast it develops and what caused it. Slow decreases in blood pressure happen normally, so hypotension becomes more common as people get older. Fast decreases in blood pressure can mean certain parts of your body aren’t getting enough blood flow. That can have effects that are unpleasant, disruptive or even dangerous.
Usually, your body can automatically control your blood pressure and keep it from dropping too much. If it starts to drop, your body tries to make up for that, either by speeding up your heart rate or constricting blood vessels to make them narrower. Symptoms of hypotension happen when your body can’t offset the drop in blood pressure.
For many people, hypotension doesn’t cause any symptoms. Many people don’t even know their blood pressure is low unless they measure their blood pressure.
Your healthcare provider may observe these signs of low blood pressure:
Hypotension can happen for a wide range of reasons. Causes of low blood pressure include:
Complications that can happen because of hypotension include:
Hypotension itself is easy to diagnose. Taking your blood pressure is all you need to do. But figuring out why you have hypotension is another story. If you have symptoms, a healthcare provider will likely use a variety of tests to figure out why it’s happening and if there’s any danger to you because of it.
Your provider may recommend the following tests:
Tests on your blood and pee (urine) can look for any potential problems, like:
If providers suspect a heart or lung problem is behind your hypotension, they’ll likely use imaging tests to see if they’re right. These tests include:
These tests look for specific problems with your heart or other body systems.
Low blood pressure treatment usually starts with finding out why it’s happening. If a provider can treat that cause directly, hypotension will usually get better on its own. For example, hypotension can happen because of an injury and blood loss. Repairing that injury and replacing the lost blood with a blood transfusion will stop hypotension as long as the repair to the injury holds.
If you take medications that affect your blood pressure, your healthcare provider may change your dosage or have you stop taking that medication entirely.
If the cause remains a mystery, it’s also possible to treat it directly. However, curing hypotension is only possible if there’s an underlying cause that’s curable.
The most important thing for a provider treating low blood pressure is to find the underlying cause and correct it. Treatments can range from simple IV fluids to antibiotics to surgery or even a heart transplant. Some people with low blood pressure need a hospital stay.
Treating hypotension directly usually happens in one of three ways:
If your healthcare provider diagnoses you with hypotension, they may do the following:
The complications of treatment depend on the exact medication or treatment you receive. Your healthcare provider can best explain the possible complications or side effects. That’s because they can consider your specific circumstances, including other health conditions, medications you take and more.
Depending on the cause of your hypotension, you may feel better as you receive treatment. In some cases, it may take longer — days or even weeks — for medication or other treatments to help you feel better consistently.
It’s usually not possible to reduce your risk of or prevent hypotension. The only exception is avoiding circumstances or actions that can lead to it, such as taking recreational drugs or supplements/herbal remedies that can lower your blood pressure.
Eating smaller meals with fewer carbohydrates may help you avoid having low blood pressure after meals.
If you have hypotension, what you can expect depends on what causes it and if you have symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms, it’s unlikely that hypotension will be a problem for you.
If you have symptoms, hypotension can interfere with your ability to stand up, care for yourself, cook, drive and do many other activities. That’s why understanding low blood pressure and following a healthcare provider’s guidance are so important to minimizing this condition’s impact on your life.
How long this condition lasts depends on what caused it. If you have hypotension because of normal aging, it’ll probably be a lifelong concern.
If you have low blood pressure but don’t have symptoms, this condition usually isn’t harmful and shouldn’t impact your life.
If you do have symptoms, the underlying cause is usually what determines the outlook for this condition. Your healthcare provider is the best person to tell you what to expect from this condition and what you can do to manage those effects.
If you have hypotension with symptoms, the best thing you can do is follow your healthcare provider’s guidance on managing this condition. Their recommendations may include any of the following:
If you have low blood pressure, you should:
Be sure to talk with your provider before making these changes. They can give you more specific guidance.
If you know you have hypotension, you should see your healthcare provider if you start to notice symptoms affecting your life or disrupting your usual routine and activities.
If you don’t know you have hypotension, you should see a healthcare provider if you have repeated dizziness or fainting episodes. This is especially important because those symptoms are possible with many other health conditions, some of which are dangerous.
If you have hypotension, you should go to the hospital when you:
Questions you should ask your provider include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Hypotension is a condition that can have no symptoms, and many people don’t even know they have it. For others, it can cause symptoms that are unpleasant and even disruptive to your daily life and activities. If you suspect you have low blood pressure, getting it diagnosed and treated is essential. A proper diagnosis and treatment can help you avoid falls and other complications. Fortunately, this condition is often treatable, and there are many things your healthcare provider can explain to you that can help you care for yourself.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/10/2023.
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