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When is low blood pressure a problem?

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What is low blood pressure?CausesRisk factorsTreatment optionsMedical supportSummary
You may believe that low blood pressure is a sign of good health. But if your levels are too low, it may be a sign of an underlying health condition.
Medically reviewed by Jenneh Rishe, RN
Written by D. M. Pollock
Updated on

Blood pressure is a measurement of the pressure that your bloodstream exerts on the walls of your arteries. While many people will understand the dangers of having high blood pressure (hypertension), few are aware of the problems that can occur with low blood pressure (hypotension).

A blood pressure reading involves two numbers measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg):

  • Systolic, which is the pressure during contraction of the heart muscle
  • Diastolic, which is the pressure during relaxation of the heart muscle

Some people have a resting blood pressure that naturally sits lower. But if you have a blood pressure reading lower than 90/60 mm Hg, this could be a sign of hypotension.

What is low blood pressure?

Person checking their blood pressure at home.
1446888571Senior woman measuring blood pressure at homePhotography by Piksel/Getty Images

Low blood pressure can be an underlying condition that often causes no symptoms. A healthcare professional will diagnose you with low blood pressure if you have a reading lower than 90/60 mm Hg.

Typically, a healthcare professional will only consider low blood pressure to be dangerous if you are experiencing symptoms like dizziness or fainting.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), other symptoms to look out for include:

  • confusion
  • headaches
  • fatigue
  • back pain
  • blurry vision
  • clammy skin
  • nausea
  • heart palpitations
  • neck pain

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it can be a sign that your tissues and vital organs are not receiving enough oxygen. Reduced oxygen supply can lead to health events like a stroke or heart attack.

If you do not experience any symptoms but have a low blood pressure reading, it is typically a sign that there is nothing to worry about. But, if you are concerned about your blood pressure reading, consider speaking with a healthcare professional.

What can cause low blood pressure?

Blood pressure varies between individuals, and what is common for you may cause problems in others and vice versa. A drop in blood pressure as small as 20 mm Hg may cause you to experience temporary symptoms.

Lifestyle factors

Your blood pressure will naturally undergo changes throughout the day in response to daily events and lifestyle factors, such as:

  • standing up quickly after sitting for a long time
  • exercising
  • feeling cold
  • feeling scared
  • increasing age
  • experiencing shock
  • eating a big meal

Health conditions

Certain long-term health conditions or underlying causes can result in symptoms of low blood pressure.

This includes:

  • depression
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • loss of blood volume due to dehydration
  • serious infections, such as sepsis
  • underlying heart conditions like an atypically slow heart rate (bradycardia)
  • nutritional deficiency, such as low vitamin B12 levels
  • severe allergic reaction or anaphylaxis
  • hormone imbalances due to thyroid conditions

What are the risk factors of low blood pressure?

Certain risk factors can increase the chances of you experiencing a low blood pressure reading, which include:

  • Pregnancy: Within the first 24 weeks of pregnancy, your blood vessels widen to encourage blood flow to the fetus. This can sometimes cause hypotension.
  • Medications: Certain drugs prescribed for psychiatric conditions can increase your chance of experiencing hypotension. These include phenothiazines like fluphenazine (Prolixin) and tricyclic antidepressants like amitriptyline (Elavil).
  • Alcohol consumption: While drinking excessive alcohol can increase our risk of high blood pressure, it can also increase your risk of hypotension.

It is important to monitor your blood pressure at home, particularly if you know you are pregnant. This is because continual hypotension during pregnancy can increase your risk of experiencing stillbirth or pregnancy loss.

Treatment options for high blood pressure

Low blood pressure measurements do not require any treatment unless you are experiencing symptoms.

The best treatment for you will depend on what is causing your low blood pressure and the symptoms you are experiencing.

If you experience frequent low blood pressure symptoms, such as dizziness when you stand up, treatment may include:

  • altering any medications that may be triggering blood pressure changes
  • increasing your intake of water
  • wearing compression socks

If you experience sudden and severe drops in blood pressure, emergency treatment may include:

  • increasing your blood volume through an intravenous needle
  • antibiotics if you have an infection, such as amoxicillin (Amoxil)
  • medications to improve heart strength and increase blood pressure, such as midodrine (Orvaten) 

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When to speak with a doctor

If you experience dizziness after standing or eating, consider speaking with a healthcare professional. They can determine the cause of your hypotension or may recommend any adjustments to your current medication. This way, you’ll receive the most suitable and effective care.


Low blood pressure, or hypotension is typically harmless for most people. But if you regularly experience symptoms of hypotension, it can be a sign that your vital organs are not receiving enough oxygen.

If you notice low blood pressure symptoms like dizziness after standing or eating, it is important to speak with a doctor. They can help create an effective treatment plan or adjust a current treatment plan to be more suitable for your needs.

Download the free Optum Perks Discount Card to save up to 80% on some prescription medications.

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