People taking their blood pressure measurement.

What to Know About Low Blood Pressure and Aging

Low Blood Pressure in Elderly

Most doctors dismiss chronically low blood pressure (BP), or hypotension, unless it’s causing noticeable symptoms. Make sure your doctor is aware you may have low BP and alert them to any uncomfortable or dangerous symptoms.

Low blood pressure is seldom a cause for concern, at least not in the same way that high blood pressure is, but the risk of sudden blood pressure drops increases with age, as do many conditions associated with BP that is too low. A sudden plunge in blood pressure of just 10 to 20 points can bring on fainting and other adverse symptoms.

Low blood pressure itself may not be life-threatening, but if you live alone and are in danger of fainting and hitting your head, it is definitely life-endangering and should not be minimized.

Symptoms of an Oncoming Blood Pressure Crash

If you already have low blood pressure, small things can trigger a sudden drop that causes it to drop through the floor by 10 points or more. A BP crash can happen suddenly, by doing something as simple as bending over or standing up quickly from a seated position.

Even children and teenagers can faint from doing something as simple as standing up or bending over too quickly. However, as your circulation slows with age, you may become more prone to sudden fits of dizziness and fainting if you already have low BP.

An approaching BP crash may bring on the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Inability to focus your eyes properly
  • Garbled speech
  • Loss of motor control
  • Falling or tripping
  • Extreme emotions like tearful answers to simple questions
  • People may seem drunk, drugged or otherwise impaired.

If you have extremely low blood pressure, it would be wise to carry a medical card in your wallet explaining that. Otherwise, you may end up in the drunk tank or your friends may call you a taxi, when what you really need is medical attention.

Remember, when your BP falls suddenly, all the blood rushes from your brain to your feet, and you may go suddenly horizontal. If you do faint, do not try to bounce up. Give your heart and circulation a few minutes to reach equilibrium. Think of your body’s circulation like the floating bubble in a carpenter’s level and give yourself a few minutes to “level out.”

Big Meals

A big meal, particularly one stuffed with satisfying carbohydrates, can bring on a sudden shift in blood pressure, resulting in dizziness and fainting.

During the holidays in particular, if you are not accustomed to eating big meals, be aware that you might suddenly feel dizzy or faint. Lie down and take a short nap after a rib-sticking meal. Elderly parents may also be prone to a postprandial BP drop due to blood pooling in the digestive organs after a big meal.

Hot Showers

Maybe you are tired at the end of a day and you think a hot shower or bath and a glass of wine will help give you a second wind. Beware, hot tubs, hot showers and bubble baths will dilate your blood vessels and within a few hours or less could bring on a BP crash. If you are prone to low BP, do not drive, go on extended walks, or drink alcohol after a hot shower or a soak in the hot tub.

Dieting is another source of potential BP crashes. Cutting too much protein or salt out of your diet can reduce the volume of your blood supply and result in lowered BP and the danger of a sudden BP crash.

Quick Recovery Tips

If you suddenly feel giddy, dizzy or goofy you may be about to experience a BP crash. there are many things you can do for low blood pressure in elderly. Lie down and give yourself 10 to 20 minutes to stabilize. A salty snack and a glass of water will probably help as well. If you are over-heated, lie down somewhere cool and cover yourself with a light blanket. Avoid sudden chilling, which can also contribute to a BP drop.

Related Conditions

Some drugs have hypotension as a side effect, so be aware of what that means and watch out for such as nitrates, diuretics, beta-blockers, erectile dysfunction medications, drugs for Parkinson's disease, anti-anxiety agents and antidepressants.

A common condition that can be exacerbated by low blood pressure is Raynaud’s Syndrome. When your core body temperature is threatened, the body pulls back circulation and heat from the extremities, leaving fingers and toes white and lacking blood flow.

The condition can be hereditary or it can be an effect of taking beta-blockers and other medications. Raynaud’s can also be a side effect of conditions like scleroderma or rheumatoid arthritis. If you feel your fingers and toes going numb and white, it may be a symptom that your BP is dangerously low and you need to protect your heart and head from becoming too cold.

What You Can Do for Low Blood Pressure in Elderly

If you are concerned about low blood pressure, there are simple things you can do to prevent your BP from dropping:

  • Take vitamin B regularly
  • Make sure you are getting enough salt, minerals and calcium
  • Eat four to five small meals per day rather than two to three large ones
  • Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
  • Take brisk walks early in the day to invigorate your lungs and get your circulation moving
  • If you work at a desk job, get up and move around frequently. Sitting for long periods has been proven detrimental to proper circulation and heart health.
  • At least once a day go outside and breathe deeply for eight to 10 repetitions