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Low blood pressure, also called hypotension, means different things for different people.
A normal blood pressure reading is typically between 90/60 and 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), but numbers outside this range can still be OK.
A healthy blood pressure reading for your body is based on your:
- medical history
- overall condition
Your doctor may diagnose you with low blood pressure if your reading is under 90/60 mm Hg and you have other symptoms, including:
- blurry vision
- confusion or trouble concentrating
- nausea or vomiting
Seek immediate medical care if you have:
- a rapid pulse
- shallow breathing
- cold or clammy skin
These symptoms may indicate shock, which is a medical emergency.
Low blood pressure has a range of causes, including:
- abrupt change in position
- autonomic nervous system disorders
- eating a big meal
- endocrine disorders
- extreme allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
- extreme blood loss
- heart attack or heart disease
- low blood sugar
- certain medications
- severe infection
- thyroid conditions
- vigorous exercise
- neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s
Eating certain types of food can help you raise your blood pressure. Monitor your symptoms and regularly measure your blood pressure to see what works. Try to consume:
- More fluids. Dehydration decreases blood volume, causing blood pressure to drop. Staying hydrated is especially important when exercising.
- Foods high in vitamin B-12. Too little vitamin B-12 can lead to a certain type of anemia, which can cause low blood pressure and fatigue. Foods high in B-12 include eggs, fortified cereals, animal meats, and nutritional yeast.
- Foods high in folate. Too little folate can also contribute to anemia. Examples of folate-rich foods include asparagus, beans, lentils, citrus fruits, leafy greens, eggs, and liver.
- Salt. Salty foods can increase blood pressure. Try eating canned soup, smoked fish, cottage cheese, pickled items, and olives.
- Caffeine. Coffee and caffeinated tea may temporarily spike blood pressure by stimulating the cardiovascular system and boosting your heart rate.
Talk to your healthcare provider or a dietitian about healthy foods to include on your shopping list. There are ways you can modify daily behaviors that may help as well.
If you suspect you may have anemia, be sure to visit your healthcare provider for testing to pinpoint the type of anemia and the best treatment options.
Here are a few other changes you can make to your diet to help raise your blood pressure:
- Eat small meals more frequently. Large meals may cause more dramatic drops in blood pressure, as your body works harder to digest larger meals.
- Drink more water and limit alcohol. Dehydration lowers blood pressure.
In addition to altering your diet, you may also be able to raise your blood pressure by making these lifestyle changes:
- If you exercise outdoors in extreme heat, take frequent breaks and be sure to increase hydration efforts.
- Avoiding spending long amounts of time in saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms which can cause dehydration.
- Change body positions (such as standing up) slowly.
- Avoid prolonged bed rest.
- Wear compression stockings, which help blood move back upward from your legs and feet. You can purchase them online.
A drop in blood pressure is common during the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. The circulatory system starts to expand, and hormonal changes cause your blood vessels to dilate.
If you experience low blood pressure symptoms, let your OB-GYN know. You may need to pay more attention to your hydration during this time.
Pregnancy-related low blood pressure usually goes away later on in the pregnancy or shortly after delivery.
It’s important to have your blood pressure checked and monitored during pregnancy to eliminate any underlying causes for it, such as anemia or an ectopic pregnancy.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your overall activity level and dietary habits to determine what changes, if any, you should make.
Many medical conditions, age, and medications can affect blood pressure. Work with your healthcare provider to make sure your blood pressure level is healthy for you.
Eating certain foods may also affect blood pressure levels.
If you’re trying to raise your blood pressure through diet, it’s important to check with a healthcare provider or dietitian to make sure you’re meeting your nutritional needs.