Low BP (vs) High BP! Causes, Symptoms, Management and More!

Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)
Dr. Pakhi Sharma (MBBS)

General Physician | 6+ years

Low BP vs High BP
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Did you know that low BP (blood pressure) or hypotension can be just as dangerous as high BP?

Low BP vs high BP is often a debatable issue in terms of which can be more dangerous and how to differentiate between the two conditions. Detection of both the conditions at the earliest is the best way to prevent further complications.

Learn all you need to know about the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of high and low blood pressure.

Contents:
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    What are Hypertension and Hypotension?
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    What Causes High and Low Blood Pressure?
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    Low BP vs High BP Symptoms
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    How to Know if Your BP is High or Low?
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    How are Hypertension and Hypotension Managed?
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    Can Hypertension and Hypotension be Prevented?
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    When To See A Doctor?
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    Don’t Have Time To Read?
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    FAQs
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What are Hypertension and Hypotension?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common clinical condition where your blood pressure (the force exerted by blood against the walls of your blood vessels) is consistently too high. Based on its causes, high blood pressure is divided into two categories:

  • Primary (or Essential) Hypertension: 

It occurs when blood pressure rises due to loss of elasticity of your blood vessels. Several factors such as age, genetics, obesity, and health conditions including diabetes or kidney disorders are responsible for this.

  • Secondary Hypertension: 

It is a sudden increase in blood pressure due to an underlying health condition or intake of certain medications. It can be more severe when compared to primary hypertension.

Low blood pressure or hypotension is defined as the condition where your blood flows with very less pressure or force through your blood vessels. It means that the blood is not flowing fully to your brain, arteries, and organs.

What Causes High and Low Blood Pressure?

Your blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood pumped by your heart and the resistance in the blood vessels of your heart. 

Causes of High Blood Pressure

When the arteries of your heart become narrower due to factors such as formation of plaque (fatty deposits), it becomes difficult for your heart to pump the same amount of blood, resulting in a rise in blood pressure. It usually starts showing with age due to the loss of elasticity of the blood vessels, but can happen at any age as a result of other underlying issues.

Causes of Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure can happen due to medical conditions such as heart diseases, endocrine disorders, pregnancy, severe infection or septicemia, dehydration, blood loss, and malnutrition. Another cause of low blood pressure can be the usage of certain medications such as blood pressure medications, antidepressants, and medications for Parkinson’s disease and erectile dysfunction.

Low BP vs High BP Symptoms

Both high BP and low BP, if left untreated, can cause adverse effects on the daily functioning of your body. Therefore, it is important to understand the symptoms of low BP and high BP.

Symptoms of High BP

Most patients with hypertension do not experience severe symptoms. However, some common symptoms can indicate that your blood pressure is high. These include:
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations (irregular heartbeats)
  • Vision problems
  • Thumping in your chest, neck, or ears
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tiredness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nose bleeding

Symptoms of Low BP

Low blood pressure symptoms include:
  • Fatigue 
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Lack of concentration
  • Lightheadedness
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How to Know if Your BP is High or Low?

It becomes hard to visit a clinic or a doctor every time you need to get your BP checked. Nowadays a lot of BP monitoring devices are available in the market for domestic use, so you can easily check your BP on a regular basis. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Your blood pressure reading consists of 2 numbers:
  • The systolic blood pressure or the top number indicates the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats.
  • The diastolic blood pressure or the bottom number indicates the pressure in your blood vessels between the beats.
Keep in mind the readings in this table to know if your BP is high, low, or normal.
Blood Pressure Category Systolic (mm Hg) and/or Diastolic (mm Hg)
Low Less than 90 and/or  Less than 60
Normal Less than 120 and Less than 80
Elevated 120 to 129 and Less than 80
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension Stage 1) 130 to 139 or 80 to 89
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension Stage 2) 140 or higher or 90 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis Higher than 180 and/or Higher than 120
Source: American Heart Association and the National Health Service To avoid complications, both hypertension and hypotension should not be left untreated if you come across severe symptoms.

How are Hypertension and Hypotension Managed?

High Blood Pressure Management

Hypertension, if not managed early, can cause serious damage to your blood vessels and organs. Its management includes:

Medications

  • Diuretics (medications designed to increase the amount of water and salt expelled from your body as urine) are recommended as a primary treatment. ACE inhibitors (angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, medications to relax your veins and arteries) are generally given to people who have other medical conditions such as diabetes.
  • Combination drugs are prescribed by your doctor when your blood pressure is 10/20 points above normal.
  • Follow up with your doctor is recommended when the set goal for blood pressure is achieved. It also helps the doctor make sure if there is a need to change the medication dose or check for side-effects.

Lifestyles changes

  • Putting a stop to drinking and smoking is advised, as these habits can damage the walls of your blood vessels and stiffen your arteries.
  • Daily physical exercise is recommended to train the heart muscles and lose excess fat.
  • Talking to a mental health counsellor and getting involved in meditation sessions may help manage stress.

Low Blood Pressure Management

  • Hypotension is not always a cause of concern for many, especially if no symptoms are present. However, it can be effectively managed by incorporating small changes into your lifestyle. Management of low blood pressure includes:

Medications

  • Medicines such as fludrocortisone promote sodium retention by your kidney, which can improve blood pressure.
  • Medicines such as midodrine restrict the ability of your blood vessels to expand, which raises blood pressure.

Lifestyles changes

  • An increased intake of salt in daily meals may be recommended by your doctor.
  • It is advisable to limit the consumption of alcoholic beverages and increase the consumption of non-alcoholic fluids, especially during summers.
  • Standing or sitting for a long period of time should be avoided.
  • Exercise on a regular basis is recommended to increase the blood flow in the body.

Can Hypertension and Hypotension be Prevented?

Prevention of Hypertension

Leading a healthy lifestyle is a strong shield against hypertension and its damaging effects. Taking these small steps can help prevent high blood pressure and keep it under control.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be more physically active on a regular basis.
  • Limit your sodium intake.
  • Have a nutritious and balanced diet.
  • Take steps such as mediation, yoga etc., to manage your stress levels.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Cut back on alcohol.

Prevention of Hypotension

It is usually not possible to prevent hypotension. It is always best to notify your doctor about any symptoms of hypotension so that they can diagnose the underlying condition, if any.

When To See A Doctor?

As hypertension generally does not come with early symptoms, it is crucial for those who have a higher risk of developing the condition to undergo periodic screenings. Annual screenings are recommended for:
  • Individuals who are above the age of 40.
  • People who are at a higher risk of developing the condition, such as those with a family history of hypertension, obese or overweight individuals, smokers, and those who consume alcohol regularly..
Adults aged between 18 to 39 years, individuals with a healthy blood pressure, and those who do not fall into the high-risk category can undergo screenings once every 2 to 3 years. Those who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure will require regular monitoring of their blood pressure and frequent consultations with their doctor. Hypotension is usually not a sign of a serious problem if you do not have any symptoms. However, if you face any of the symptoms of low BP, it is advised to consult a doctor to diagnose the underlying condition.

Don’t Have Time To Read?

  • High bp or hypertension is a common condition where your blood pressure or the force exerted by blood against the walls of your blood vessels is consistently too high.
  • Low BP or hypotension is when your blood flows with very less pressure or force through your blood vessels.
  • A normal blood pressure level is less than or equal to 120/80 mm Hg, where 120 is the systolic blood pressure and 80 is the diastolic blood pressure. A blood pressure less than 90/60 mm Hg is considered low bp. A blood pressure between 130-139 mm Hg/80 to 89 mm Hg is considered to be high BP.
  • Common symptoms of high BP include headache, heart palpitations, vision problems, thumping in your chest, neck, or ears, etc.
  • Common symptoms of low BP include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, etc.
  • Medications and lifestyle changes can help in the management of hypertension and hypotension.
  • Hypertension can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, limiting your sodium intake, quitting smoking, and cutting back on alcohol. It is usually not possible to prevent hypotension.
  • Use the Phable Care App to consult India’s leading cardiologists, order medicines, book lab tests, integrate BP monitors and other devices to get real-time remote care from the comfort of your home. Also, check out our Hypertension Management Program which provides ‎360º care. Let’s treat low/high blood pressure problems together.

Frequently Asked Questions

Your blood pressure levels are considered too high above 140/90 mm Hg, that is, when the systolic blood pressure is 140 mm Hg or higher and the diastolic blood pressure is 90 mm Hg or higher. This condition is known as stage 1 hypertension. 

Generally, having a low blood pressure is not a cause for concern if it does not show any symptoms. High blood pressure can cause adverse effects on your blood vessels and organs and increases the risk of developing other chronic conditions.

A blood pressure reading below 90/60, that is, systolic below 90 mm Hg and diastolic below 60 mm Hg is considered abnormally low. If low BP is present with symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath etc., tt requires immediate medical attention.

Anxiety can lead to a temporary hike in your blood pressure. However, it does not lead to long-term hypertension.

Low blood pressure indicates that the heart, brain and other organs of your body are not getting enough blood. It can be indicative of an underlying condition such as nerve damaged because of diabetes, dehydration (not drinking enough fluids), changes in heart rhythm (arrhythmias) and heart failure.

While many people with low BP may not experience any symptoms, it can cause headache as a symptom. 

Low blood pressure may cause an inadequate flow of blood to the body's organs and result in a stroke, which is a damage to the brain due to interrupted blood supply. 

Having a low BP may cause anxiety in individuals. It is also to be noted that the symptoms of low blood pressure can be similar to those of anxiety, and include dizziness, nausea, fainting, and difficulty concentrating.

Dr. Pakhi Sharma
Dr. Pakhi Sharma, MBBS
(General physician, 6+ years)
An expert in obstetrics and medical emergencies, Dr. Pakhi Sharma, an alumni of Sri Devaraj Urs University of Higher Education and Research Centre, is a general physician working at Phablecare. She has 6+ years of work experience spread across gynaecology and obstetrics, family medicine, and medical emergencies at renowned hospitals and clinics.

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