Understanding Hypotension: Tips for Health-Conscious Singaporeans
Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, is a condition that occurs when the blood pressure drops below the normal range. While some individuals with low blood pressure may not experience noticeable symptoms, others may suffer from dizziness and fainting. In severe cases, hypotension can even be life-threatening. Health-conscious Singaporeans must know the causes, symptoms, potential risks of low blood pressure and when to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and personalised advice.
What is Hypotension?
Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, is a condition that occurs when the blood pressure drops below the ‘normal’ range – or rather, below the normal expected for an individual in a given environment. Whilst systolic blood pressure (SBP) less than 90mmHg and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) less than 60 is the commonly recognised cut-off, there is no single universally accepted numerical cut-off. In individuals with marginally lower pressures than the commonly recognised range but have no evident worrying symptoms or pathological conditions identified – it may just be the norm for them. However, if the BP is significantly reduced and blood flow to the vital organs are compromised, symptoms such as dizziness/fainting may manifest. In such situations, this need to be addressed promptly as it can results in serious consequences, even fatality.
Causes and Symptoms:
Low blood pressure can be triggered by various factors. Determining the root cause is essential for proper management. Common causes include:
- Dehydration/Blood loss – this leads to volume loss resulting drop in pressure.
- Pregnancy: Blood vessels expand as a natural process, leading to pressure drop. This is more typical in the 1-2nd
- Certain medications – Certain medications such as those for managing hypertension naturally leads to drop in pressure.
- Medical conditions such as Heart/valve disease, Parkinson’s disease, Endocrinopathies.
- Severe infections – Situations like this can affect the body to lose its ability to regulate the mechanisms to maintain proper blood pressure. The process is usually complex and may be associated with multi-organ failure.
- Severe allergic reactions – this is a extreme situation where the chemicals/mediators released in response to an allergen lead to a chain of effects resulting in cardiovascular collapse.
Symptoms of hypotension:
- Light headedness,
- Fainting when moving from a lying or sitting position to standing.
- In severe cases, a sudden and persistent drop in blood pressure can lead to a life-threatening condition known as “shock,” which requires immediate medical attention to prevent organ damage and potential fatality.
Types of Hypotension:
Different types of low blood pressure are observed in individuals, each with its specific triggers and demographics affected. Broad categories include:
- Orthostatic Hypotension (Postural Hypotension):
This type of hypotension occurs when there is a sudden decline in blood pressure upon standing from a sitting or lying position. It is common in older adults and can be caused by dehydration, long-term bed rest, pregnancy, certain medical conditions, and specific medications.
- Postprandial Hypotension:
Postprandial hypotension is characterized by a drop in blood pressure 1 to 2 hours after eating. It primarily affects elders, especially those with high blood pressure or autonomic nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s. Lifestyle modifications such as eating small, low-carbohydrate meals, staying hydrated, and avoiding alcohol can help manage this condition.
- Neurally Mediated Hypotension (Vasovagal syncope):
Young adults and children are more susceptible to neurally mediated hypotension triggered by standing for extended periods. It results from miscommunication between the heart and the brain.
Diagnosis and Treatment of Hypotension:
Diagnosing low blood pressure (hypotension) involves a thorough physical examination and medical history assessment by a healthcare provider. Measuring blood pressure is a fundamental part of this process.
Additionally, specific tests may be conducted to identify the underlying cause of low blood pressure:
- Blood Tests: These tests help diagnose conditions that can lead to low blood pressure, such as hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), hyperglycemia (high blood sugar or diabetes), or anaemia (low red blood cell count).
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This quick and painless test assesses the heart’s electrical activity. It can help diagnose current or previous heart attacks.
- Tilt Table Test: The test evaluates how the body reacts to positional changes. During the test, the patient lies on a table that tilts, simulating the transition from a horizontal to a standing position. Heart rate and blood pressure are closely monitored during the procedure.
Treatment of low blood pressure depends on its underlying cause. If low blood pressure is causing symptoms, addressing the root issue becomes essential. For instance, if certain medications contribute to low blood pressure, the healthcare provider might recommend adjusting the dosage or switching to alternative medicine. It’s crucial to consult the healthcare provider before modifying or discontinuing any medication.
In cases where the cause of clinically significant low blood pressure is unclear, or no specific treatment exists, the primary goal is to raise blood pressure and alleviate symptoms.
Here are some approaches to achieve this:
- Increase Salt Intake: For individuals with low blood pressure, consuming slightly higher amounts of salt can be beneficial. However, seeking advice from a healthcare provider is essential, as excessive sodium intake can lead to heart failure, especially in older adults.
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking fluids, especially water, can help increase blood volume and prevent dehydration, essential in managing hypotension.
- Wear Compression Stockings: These elastic stockings, also known as support stockings, aid in improving blood flow from the legs to the heart. They can be particularly helpful in alleviating pain and swelling associated with varicose veins.
- Medications: Specific medications may be prescribed in cases of orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure upon standing). For example, fludrocortisone can boost blood volume, and midodrine may reduce the ability of blood vessels to expand, thereby raising blood pressure.
Preventive Measures for Health-Conscious Singaporeans:
For individuals aiming to maintain optimal health and manage hypotension effectively, the following tips can prove beneficial:
- Stay Hydrated: Drinking adequate water throughout the day helps prevent dehydration, a common cause of low blood pressure.
- Limit Alcohol Intake: Excessive alcohol consumption can cause a drop in blood pressure, so moderate drinking is advisable.
- Gradual Postural Changes: When transitioning from lying to sitting or standing, do so slowly to allow the body time to adjust to the changes in blood pressure.
- Regular Exercise: Physical activity improves cardiovascular health and can help regulate blood pressure levels.
- Balanced Diet: Opt for a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, while restricting salt and processed foods to maintain healthy blood pressure.
What you can do?
Understanding hypotension is vital for health-conscious individuals in Singapore. While low blood pressure may not always present noticeable symptoms, its potential risks should not be underestimated. By staying hydrated, adopting a balanced diet, and making lifestyle adjustments, it’s possible to manage and prevent the adverse effects of low blood pressure.
If you experience persistent symptoms, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional for proper evaluation and personalized advice. Taking proactive steps towards maintaining healthy blood pressure levels will contribute to overall well-being and a better quality of life.
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