What is low blood pressure?
Low blood pressure, also called hypotension, means different things for different people. A normal blood pressure reading is typically 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), but numbers outside this range can still be healthy. Work with your doctor to find a healthy blood pressure based on your medical history, age, and 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
- nausea or vomiting
- confusion or trouble concentrating
Seek immediate medical care if you have a rapid pulse, shallow breathing, and 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
- vigorous exercise
- heart attack or heart disease
- thyroid conditions
- endocrine disorders
- autonomic nervous system disorders
- extreme blood loss
- severe infection
- extreme allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
- low blood sugar
What to eat
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: Having too little vitamin B-12 can lead to anemia, which can cause low blood pressure. Foods high in vitamin B-12 include eggs, fortified cereals, and beef.
- Foods high in folate: Too little folate can have the same effect as too little vitamin B-12. Examples of folate-rich foods include asparagus, garbanzo beans, and liver.
- Salt: Salty foods can increase blood pressure. Try eating canned soup, smoked fish, cottage cheese, and olives.
- Licorice tea: Licorice may reduce the effect of aldosterone, the hormone that helps regulate the impact of salt on the body. Drinking licorice tea can help increase blood pressure rates, according to a case presented in The British Medical Journal.
- Caffeine: Coffee and caffeinated tea may temporarily spike blood pressure by stimulating the cardiovascular system and boosting your heart rate.
Tips for avoiding low blood pressure
Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about the foods you should scratch off your shopping list and those you should eat in moderation.
Here are a few other changes you can make to your diet to 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.
- Avoid eating a lot of high-carb foods, particularly processed carbs. These foods are digested quickly, which can lead to low blood pressure.
- Drink more water and limit alcohol, as dehydration lowers blood pressure.
- Don’t exercise too much outdoors during summer or in extreme heat.
- Avoiding spending long amounts of time in of saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms.
- Change body positions, such as standing up, slowly.
- Avoid prolonged bed rest.
- Wear compression stockings, which help blood move throughout your body.
In addition to altering your diet, you may also be able to raise your blood pressure through these lifestyle changes:
Low blood pressure and pregnancy
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.
Don’t eliminate healthy foods from your diet, even if they’re known to lower blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about your overall activity level and dietary habits to determine what changes, if any, you should make. Don’t try to raise your blood pressure yourself while pregnant.
The bottom line
Eating certain foods and limiting others may help to lower blood pressure. Just make sure you don’t completely eliminate healthy foods. If you’re trying to raise your blood pressure through diet, it’s important to still work with your doctor to make sure your blood pressure level is healthy for you.