Hazards of Low Blood Pressure in Seniors

Low blood pressure in seniors is a common problem, but it can be treated. Low blood pressure is technically known as hypotension. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of low blood pressure so you can get treatment if needed.

Some of the most common symptoms of low blood pressure include dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting. These are discussed in greater detail later in this article. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away.

Low blood pressure can also cause other problems, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and confusion. As with symptoms, these problems are also detailed further in this article. These problems can be serious, which underscores the vital need to get treatment if you think you might have low blood pressure.

There are several things you can do to help treat low blood pressure, including eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding alcohol and caffeine. If lifestyle changes don’t help, your doctor may prescribe medication to help raise your blood pressure.

It’s important to remember that low blood pressure is not a disease but rather a condition that can be treated. With proper treatment, most people with low blood pressure can live normal, healthy lives.

Specific Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure in Seniors

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are a set of symptoms commonly associated with low blood pressure among seniors. These are:

  • Blurred or fading vision
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Nausea
  • Confusion, particularly in seniors
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Decrease in skin coloration or pallor
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Weak and rapid pulse

Common Types of Hypotension or Low Blood Pressure Among Seniors

  • Orthostatic hypotension: This type of low blood pressure condition, also known as postural hypotension, is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure falls when they stand up. This can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.
  • Postprandial hypotension: Postprandial hypotension is a condition that occurs when blood pressure drops after eating. This can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and sometimes fainting. It is most common in older adults and can be caused by a variety of factors, including slowed digestion, medications, and dehydration. Treatment options vary depending on the underlying cause but may include changes to diet or medication dosage.
  • Neurally mediated hypotension: Neurally mediated hypotension, or NMH, is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure drops when they are standing up. This can cause dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting. NMH is caused by problems with the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls automatic functions like heart rate and blood pressure. There are several possible causes of NMH, including dehydration, medication side effects, and problems with the autonomic nerves themselves. Treatment for NMH depends on the underlying cause. If dehydration is the cause, then drinking fluids can help to raise blood pressure. If medications are causing the problem, then the doctor may adjust the dosage or switch to a different medication. If there is a problem with the autonomic nerves themselves, then treatment may include medications or surgery.
  • Multiple system atrophy with orthostatic hypotension: This type of hypotension is a rare, progressive neurological disorder that affects the body’s ability to regulate blood pressure and heart rate. It can cause symptoms such as orthostatic hypotension or a sudden fall in blood pressure when standing up, which can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting. Other common symptoms include problems with balance and coordination, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, and constipation. There is no cure for multiple system atrophy, and there is no effective treatment for reversing its progression. However, treatments are available to help alleviate symptoms and improve quality of life. Most people with multiple system atrophy eventually require full-time care.

Medications Taken by Seniors That Can Cause Low Blood Pressure

As can be the case with medications, there are drugs that have the potential to lower a senior’s blood pressure as an unintended side effect. Examples of medications that have the potential to cause hypotension or low blood pressure in seniors include:

  • Water pills (diuretics), such as furosemide (Lasix) and hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide)
  • Alpha blockers, such as prazosin (Minipress)
  • Beta-blockers, such as atenolol (Tenormin) and propranolol (Inderal, Innopran XL, Hemangeol)
  • Drugs for Parkinson’s disease, such as pramipexole (Mirapex) or those containing levodopa
  • Certain types of antidepressants (tricyclic antidepressants), including doxepin (Silenor) and imipramine (Tofranil)
  • Drugs for erectile dysfunction, including sildenafil (Revatio, Viagra) or tadalafil (Adcirca, Alyq, Cialis), particularly when taken with the heart medication nitroglycerin (Nitrostat, Nitro-Dur, Nitromist) – Data provided by the Mayo Clinic

Other Potential Causes of Low Blood Pressure Among Seniors

There is an array of other potential causes of low blood pressure among seniors. These include:

  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • An underactive thyroid
  • Addison’s disease (a disorder of the adrenal glands)
  • Excessive heat
  • Extended bed rest
  • Anemia due to lack of vitamin B-12 and folate
  • Major blood loss

Major Health Issues for a Senior With Chronic Low Blood Pressure

There can be some significant health consequences if a senior suffers from long-term or chronic low blood pressure. One of the most serious long-term effects of chronic low blood pressure is damage to the heart. When blood pressure falls too low, the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body. Over time, this can damage the heart muscle and lead to heart failure.

Another potential long-term complication of chronic low blood pressure is stroke. When blood pressure is too low, it can cause a disruption in the flow of blood to the brain. This can lead to a stroke or even death.

Chronic low blood pressure can also have a negative impact on mental health. People with hypotension often report feeling tired and sluggish all the time. They may also experience mood swings or depression.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of chronic low blood pressure, it is important to see a doctor right away. There are many treatments available that can help restore your blood pressure to normal levels.

How to Treat Low Blood Pressure

Finally, if you are experiencing low blood pressure, there are a few things you can do to help raise your pressure.

First, drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine and alcohol. Second, you may also want to eat a healthy diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Finally, get regular exercise to help increase your blood pressure.

If these measures don’t work, you may need to take medication to raise your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about the best treatment for you. Moreover, if the cause of low blood pressure appears to be a medication (or medications) being taken, an adjustment in those meds might be possible. This is also a determination that will need to be made by your physician.