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The Facts About Low Blood Pressure in Older People

Important note: If you reached this article because someone is experiencing a sudden drop in blood pressure caused by uncontrolled bleeding, severe infections, or allergic reactions, please call 911 immediately. This can be a life-threatening situation that requires prompt medical treatment.

Concerns about overall health and wellness in older adults often center around the dangers of high blood pressure. It’s a valid concern, as high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, or dementia.

However, low blood pressure also deserves focus as it too can lead to adverse health outcomes. For example, low blood pressure can make daily activities and exercise difficult, leading to injuries if the person falls. The condition is also known as hypotension, the opposite of hypertension which refers to a high blood pressure condition.

Hypotension is often treatable and sometimes curable if the underlying cause is also curable.

Signs and symptoms of low blood pressure

Low blood pressure is often caused by insufficient blood flow to vital organs. The condition can be split into two types:

  • Absolute hypotension: Your resting blood pressure is low
  • Orthostatic hypotension: Your blood pressure drops within three minutes of standing up

Hypotension can happen to anyone, but it’s more common in older people because aging can naturally lower blood pressure. In some cases, low blood pressure in older people can be a sign of an underlying health condition, especially if it drops suddenly or occurs with symptoms such as:

  • Blurred or fading vision
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Fainting
  • Nausea

You can take your older loved one’s blood pressure with a home blood pressure monitor available in most pharmacies. Follow the instructions carefully and keep records of the blood pressure readings.

Hypotension is generally considered a blood pressure reading of lower than 90 mm Hg for the top number (systolic) or 60 mm Hg for the bottom number (diastolic). Encourage your loved one to see their doctor if the monitor reports low blood pressure.

Seek medical attention right away if the person is showing symptoms of shock as a result of a sudden drop in blood pressure, such as:

  • Confusion and disorientation
  • Loss of skin color
  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Cold, clammy skin

What Can Cause Low Blood Pressure?

There are many possible causes of low blood pressure. It can result from something simple such as dehydration, blood loss from an injury, low iron levels, medications, or more severe health concerns.

Your loved one’s doctor will determine whether or not hypotension is present and try to determine the cause so they can formulate a treatment plan. Be sure to provide information about any recent health events the older adult may have in case they’ve contributed to low blood pressure. Your doctor may also want to test for certain underlying conditions, such as diabetes or thyroid or hormonal problems, which can trigger hypotension.

In many cases, treatment may involve changes to your loved one’s diet or activity levels. Treatment may also involve medication. Ensure that your relative follows their doctor’s advice to help manage their blood pressure and reduce its impact on their health and well-being.

How can you help prevent low blood pressure?

Your older loved one can reduce or prevent the symptoms of hypotension by following a few simple steps:

Stay hydrated

Water increases the blood volume in our bodies, which helps stabilize blood pressure. Caffeinated drinks such as coffee can cause dehydration, so balance coffee intake with lots of water and other fluids that do not contain caffeine. Alcohol can also dehydrate and trigger low blood pressure, so it’s prudent to limit its intake.

Eat small, low-carb meals

Blood pressure can drop after big meals. To lower the risk, eat small meals several times per day. Also, limit foods high in carbohydrates such as bread, rice, pasta, and potatoes.

Get regular exercise

Just 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day can help reduce the risk of experiencing symptoms from low blood pressure. Also, avoid exercising in hot, humid conditions that can cause dizziness.

Be mindful of how you sit and get up

Take care not to sit with crossed legs. Also, gently move from lying or sitting down to a standing position. Getting up too quickly can cause blood pressure to drop, resulting in dizziness, lightheadedness, or fuzzy vision.

Talk to your doctor

At the first sign of hypotension, make an appointment to visit your doctor for a thorough examination. Depending on their findings, they will be able to recommend a treatment program for you that may include medication. They may also conduct a medication review if they feel your current medications could be contributing to your symptoms.

As we age, monitoring every aspect of your health and well-being can be challenging. Family members will often step in to help, but in many cases, they don’t have the time or resources to provide full-time care on their own.

However, it’s essential to know that you’re not alone in ensuring your loved one has all the care they need to be happy, healthy, and content. Help with in-home health care is just a phone call away.

In-home eldercare support in Etobicoke, Mississauga, and Brampton

When your older loved one needs professional in-home care, Carehop is ready to help.

Our caregivers are fully trained and qualified to provide exceptionally compassionate care with encouraging smiles and happy demeanours. Our professional 24/7 on-demand or live-in respite care focuses on your loved one’s individual needs to ensure that they experience joy and sunshine in their home, every day.

We can also help with day-to-day tasks such as homemaking, cooking, personal care, and keeping your loved one engaged with activities, bringing peace of mind that their care needs are always kept first and foremost.

For more information about our in-home services, please feel free to contact us anytime. We’d love to discuss how our approach to quality health care can support your loved one and family when you need it the most.

About the Author

Stephanie Machula is CareHop’s Clinical Practice Leader.

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