Watch Out for that Head Rush
by Alison Cullen
Low blood pressure or hypotension—as opposed to hypertension: high blood pressure—is more common than we realise though it is not regarded with the same concern as it poses no immediate dangers to health.
However, in continental Europe, links with low mood and depression, chronic fatigue, sleep disorders and even migraine have emerged. Although at less risk of heart attack and stroke, hypotensive people may have a series of health problems that can lower overall quality of life.
Blood pressure facts and figures
Healthy blood pressure ranges from 120/75 to 140/85. The higher is the systolic pressure—the pressure in the arteries when the heart is pumping. The lower the diastolic pressure—the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest, in between pumping.
Blood pressure that is lower than these figures indicates that the blood vessel walls are too relaxed and blood isn’t being efficiently pushed around the body, so nutrients that the blood carries, such as oxygen and iron, may not reach the tissues properly. Also the pulse rate tends to be fast, as the body tries to make up for the low pressure by pumping faster.
Symptoms of low blood pressure
Fainting, feeling light headed or giddy, seeing spots or having tunnel vision on standing up
Feelings of weakness and fatigue
Sensitivity to hot and cold
Rapid pulse on exertion
Difficulty in getting off to sleep
Sleep disturbances, night terrors, sudden waking with no obvious cause
Difficulty getting going in the morning
Frequent headaches or migraines
Low mood, sadness and hopelessness
Potential causative factors
Low protein intake
Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar)
Hypothyroidism (low thyroid function)
Anaemia (lack of iron)
Other relevant factors
Disease can cause low blood pressure, especially vomiting where you have become dehydrated and been off your food. Eating normally on recovery should quickly alleviate symptoms. A tendency to fainting, depression or low blood pressure, which doesn’t seem to be improving, should be checked out with a doctor. Changes in blood pressure control can indicate underlying metabolic disorders such as low thyroid function, or anaemia.
Sedentary jobs or lifestyles can contribute to both high and low blood pressure. Getting your circulatory system moving is important for avoiding both.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome sufferers are very likely to have low blood pressure, which contributes considerably to symptoms like fatigue and light-headedness.
Low blood pressure is a predictor of depression, and it should be tested for prior to the prescription of antidepressants. Antidepressants may restore more normal control of blood pressure, although it might get lower initially before it rights itself.
Tackling low blood pressure
After a period of relaxation, and especially after sleeping, blood pressure will reduce considerably. People with generally low blood pressure can have it sink as low as 50/35 when sleeping. So don’t stand up quickly! Prepare yourself by wiggling your toes and contracting your thigh and calf muscles, before getting up slowly.
If you love hot baths take extra care as they will dilate arteries further and can cause extreme light-headedness.
Regular gentle exercise, especially involving pumping your calf muscles, will improve general circulation and move blood pressure to a healthier level. Don’t exhaust yourself by doing too much. Two or three 10-minute walks a day would be a good start.
Take dried fruit (complex carbohydrates) rather than refined sugar, chocolate, biscuits, sweets. Make sure meals are regular to keep blood sugar levels stable. Don’t go for more than three to four hours without at least a snack, to keep blood sugar levels up. Drink carrot juice, which is good for blood pressure problems.
If you are even mildly anaemic (and especially if you are female and have heavy periods), take a good iron supplement to boost your iron levels.
Herbal teas such as hyssop and lime blossom are helpful, as is cayenne added to food.
Crataegus is a wonderful herb that is traditionally known to help with low blood pressure, as its effect is to normalise the action of the heart and bring it back into balance.
Crataegus improves the flow of blood to the heart, and (possibly most importantly with low blood pressure) increases the power of the heartbeat, so that it is pushing blood more effectively out of the heart and into the arteries. A weak, light heartbeat won’t get the blood very far on its journey round the body whereas a strong, effective heartbeat will propel blood out into the body with greater force and energy, so that it will go further. This has beneficial repercussions on many of the symptoms outlined above, as the tissues and organs are perfused with the oxygen and other nutrients carried in the bloodstream.
Take Crataegus for at least four to six months to see results. It doesn’t interfere with other medication; but you should talk to your doctor before taking Crataegus.
Add Ginkgo to the mix to get more help for your arteries, in delivering blood to the extremities. Ginkgo can’t be taken if you are on aspirin or warfarin.
Resolving low blood pressure can address many health problems, so if you think this is an issue for you, get your blood pressure checked and start (slowly and gently) back on the road to healthy circulation.