Periods of low blood pressure may not cause any symptoms, and they are not always a health issue. However, a doctor may be concerned about someone who experiences longer term low blood pressure that produces symptoms. Some foods and drinks can help raise blood pressure.
Keep reading to learn more about low blood pressure, including the symptoms and types, and some dietary changes that may help.
Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, is when blood flows through blood vessels at lower-than-normal pressures.
There are two measurements of the blood pressure on artery walls: systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the pressure when the heart is contracting, and diastolic is the pressure between heartbeats. Both measurements record blood pressure in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). When noting the measurement, doctors write the systolic number above the diastolic one.
Healthy blood pressure for most people is usually less than 120/80 mm Hg.
There is not an accepted standard for low blood pressure, but medical experts recognize a value of less than 90/60 mm Hg as being hypotensive.
Learn more about blood pressure ranges here.
Many people with low blood pressure have no symptoms. Hypotension is only concerning when the pumping pressure is not sufficient to deliver oxygenated blood to the organs. When this happens, people may experience symptoms such as:
- dizziness or lightheadedness
- dehydration and unusual thirst
- blurred vision
- rapid, shallow breathing
- cold, clammy, and pale skin
- lack of concentration
There are different types of hypotension, which vary in terms of when blood pressure drops. The main types are:
Also known as postural hypotension, this occurs when someone’s blood pressure drops when they stand up from sitting or lying down. It can cause lightheadedness or fainting and may result in falls or injuries, particularly in older people.
A person may have orthostatic hypotension due to:
- certain medications
- an underlying neurological condition
- a heart problem
Postprandial hypotension is low blood pressure that occurs after eating. The digestive process requires the body to pump more blood into the stomach and small intestines. In some people, this does not happen efficiently, and low blood pressure can occur.
Postprandial hypotension can occur following a stroke or accident. It can also be related to a person’s age or genetic predisposition.
Severe hypotension linked to shock
Shock is an extreme form of hypotension in which blood pressure drops to dangerously low levels. It is a medical emergency, and someone with symptoms of shock needs immediate medical attention. Shock can result from bleeding, major burns, or excessive loss of bodily fluids.
The reason why someone has blood pressure will determine which foods or drinks may be beneficial to consume. A person should speak to their doctor to check.
Salt, or sodium chloride, affects hormones that control the body’s water balance. High salt intake can increase blood pressure.
People who have low blood pressure may benefit from increasing their salt intake.
Ways to do this include:
- adding a pinch of salt to a glass of water
- seasoning food with salt
- eating salty foods, such as olives or anchovies
- choosing salted nuts as a snack
Foods high in vitamin B12 and folate
According to the AHA, a deficiency in vitamin B12 and folate can cause anemia, leading to low blood pressure. A doctor can test a person’s blood to see whether they are deficient in these essential nutrients.
Vitamin B12 foods
Good dietary sources of vitamin B12 include meat, eggs, fish, and dairy products, such as milk and cheese. People can also select foods fortified with vitamin B12, such as breakfast cereals and plant-based milks.
Learn about vitamin B12 foods for vegetarians and vegans here.
People can get folate by eating leafy green vegetables, broccoli, legumes, eggs, beets, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, wheat germ, and liver.
Learn more about folate here.
A person’s blood pressure can drop if they become dehydrated. It is essential to maintain adequate fluid levels by drinking water and other drinks. Older people can become dehydrated more quickly, and caregivers may need to remind them to drink regularly.
Foods and drinks containing caffeine
Foods and beverages containing caffeine may cause a rise in blood pressure. However, studies into the effects of caffeine on blood pressure are inconclusive. Research suggests that coffee temporarily raises blood pressure only in people who do not drink it regularly.
Other foods and drinks that contain caffeine include chocolate, tea, cocoa, and some sodas and energy drinks.
People should eat a healthful diet, and there are no particular foods to avoid. However, someone with low blood pressure should not choose low salt options.
If someone has postprandial hypotension, they can try eating smaller, more frequent meals. They may be able to digest smaller meals more efficiently, which may help their blood pressure.
People who have postural hypotension should stand up from a sitting or lying position slowly to avoid fainting and dizziness. They may also wish to hold onto something steady as they do so.
Someone who is not drinking enough fluids may be able to raise their blood pressure by maintaining hydration.
If an individual has concerns about low blood pressure symptoms, they should discuss this with their doctor. Similarly, doctors can examine the side effects of medications and make adjustments where necessary.
Low blood pressure has various causes, and people with hypotension will often not have any symptoms. Doctors need to address any low blood pressure symptoms and find out whether there is an underlying cause.
Once someone has identified the reason for their low blood pressure, drinking more fluids or eating salty foods may be appropriate.
Symptoms of low blood pressure due to shock require urgent medical attention.