Low Blood Pressure: Causes, Symptoms, and Therapy

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Written By Dr. Adam Mueller

Written and medically verified by Dr. Adam Mueller, a board-certified internal medicine and cardiology expert. His career is focused on the study and promotion of health and preventive care.

Low blood pressure, medically known as hypotension, may not receive as much attention as high blood pressure, but it can be just as concerning. This condition, characterized by blood pressure readings lower than 90/60 mm Hg, can lead to symptoms like dizziness, fainting, and in severe cases, can be life-threatening. This comprehensive guide delves into the nature of symptomatic low blood pressure, its causes, remedies, and importantly, how certain exercises and strategies can help manage it.

What Is Symptomatic Low Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure below 90/60 mm Hg is generally considered low. When it drops to this level, organs may not receive enough oxygen-rich blood, leading to various symptoms. In many cases, low blood pressure remains asymptomatic and doesn’t pose a threat.

Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure

Common signs include dizziness or lightheadedness, particularly when standing up quickly, which can be due to inadequate blood flow to the brain. Some individuals experience blurred vision, a clear indication of decreased blood supply to the eyes or to the brain. Fainting, or syncope, is another notable symptom, especially in severe cases of hypotension. Others might report a general feeling of weakness or fatigue, a lack of concentration, or nausea. In extreme cases due to a medical condition like a severe blood loss, hypotension can be a sign of a shock, characterized by cold, clammy skin, rapid breathing, and a weak but rapid pulse.

The symptoms of low blood pressure, while not always immediately alarming, can significantly impact daily activities and overall quality of life, necessitating attention and appropriate management.

Causes of Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, can result from a variety of causes, often combining physiological, pathological, and lifestyle factors. One common cause is dehydration, where the body loses more water than it consumes, reducing blood volume and leading to a drop in blood pressure. Heart conditions, including extremely low heart rate (bradycardia), heart valve problems, heart attack, and heart failure, are significant contributors to hypotension. Endocrine disorders, such as underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism), adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease), and low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), also play a role. Certain medications, including diuretics, some types of antidepressants, and an overdose of antihypertensive drugs, can lower blood pressure as well. Orthostatic hypotension, which occurs after standing for a long time or standing up too quickly, and the vasodilation effects of warm weather can also contribute. Additionally, prolonged bed rest, pregnancy, and nutritional deficiencies, particularly in vitamins B12 and folate, can lead to lowered blood pressure. Severe infection (septicemia) and severe blood loss from major injury are other critical factors that can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure, requiring immediate medical attention. Postprandial hypotension, a sudden drop in blood pressure following meals (especially large and heavy meals), is a common yet often overlooked condition, particularly in the elderly.

In many cases, there is no identifiable cause of low blood pressure, also known as idiopathic or primary hypotension. In these cases, the underlying reasons for the low blood pressure readings are unclear, and it often appears to be a natural part of an individual’s physiology. People with idiopathic hypotension generally don’t exhibit the typical conditions or factors that contribute to low blood pressure, such as heart diseases, endocrine problems, dehydration, or medication side effects. Instead, their blood pressure is consistently low without any associated health issues. This form of hypotension is usually benign and might be a normal state for them, not causing any symptoms or health concerns. However, it still warrants attention, especially if symptoms like dizziness or fainting occur, as these can impact daily activities and overall quality of life. Regular monitoring and consultations with healthcare professionals are advised to ensure that the hypotension remains harmless and does not indicate an underlying health issue.

Therapy for Symptomatic Low Blood Pressure

In this section, we focus on therapies specifically for idiopathic low blood pressure, where the blood pressure is consistently low without a known cause. It’s important to remember that these strategies are intended for managing symptoms in diagnosed cases of idiopathic hypotension. Anyone experiencing a new onset of low blood pressure symptoms should seek immediate medical attention which is essential to rule out underlying health issues. Let’s explore the various therapeutic approaches that can help alleviate the symptoms of idiopathic low blood pressure.

Home Remedies

  1. Increase Salt Intake: Be cautious and consult with your physician before making changes (especially if you suffer from a heart or kidney condition).
  2. Drink More Water: Hydration helps increase blood volume and prevent dehydration (also consult your physician if you suffer from a heart or kidney condition).
  3. Wear Compression Stockings: These reduce blood pooling in your legs, helping with orthostatic hypotension.
  4. Eat Small, Frequent Meals: This strategy can prevent post-meal hypotension.
  5. Licorice Tea: While it can raise blood pressure, it should be used sparingly.

Exercise and Physical Activity

Exercise plays an important role in managing low blood pressure, offering a natural and effective way to alleviate symptoms. Regular physical activity helps improve heart and circulatory system efficiency, leading to better blood flow and, consequently, a more stable blood pressure. Cardiovascular exercises, such as brisk walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming, are particularly beneficial as they encourage the heart to pump more efficiently, thus increasing blood circulation and gradually elevating blood pressure levels to a healthier range.

For individuals with low blood pressure, starting with moderate-intensity exercises and gradually increasing the duration and intensity is recommended to avoid sudden drops in blood pressure. Consistency is key; engaging in regular exercise not only helps in the short term but also contributes to long-term cardiovascular health. Additionally, exercises that involve changing positions, like yoga or light strength training, can help the body adapt to shifts in blood pressure. As always, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new exercise regimen, especially for those with diagnosed health conditions.

  1. Aerobic Exercises: Activities like walking, jogging, cycling, or swimming can enhance heart health and improve circulation.
  2. Strength Training: Light to moderate weightlifting can increase muscle strength, which in turn can help maintain a healthier blood pressure.
  3. Yoga and Stretching: Certain yoga poses and stretching exercises can improve blood circulation and help prevent the symptoms of low blood pressure.


Medications for controlling low blood pressure are typically prescribed when lifestyle modifications, such as dietary changes and exercise, are not sufficient in managing the condition. These medications work in various ways to increase blood pressure to a more tolerable level.

  1. Fludrocortisone: This medication aids in increasing blood volume. It works by promoting sodium retention in the kidneys, which in turn pulls water into the bloodstream, increasing blood volume and pressure.
  2. Midodrine: Used primarily for treating orthostatic hypotension, Midodrine works by constricting blood vessels, which raises blood pressure. It is particularly effective for patients who experience significant drops in blood pressure when standing.
  3. Pyridostigmine: Sometimes used in combination with other drugs, Pyridostigmine can help improve standing blood pressure without causing excessive increases in lying down blood pressure.
  4. Caffeine Tablets: In some cases, caffeine tablets may be prescribed as they can temporarily increase blood pressure.

It’s important to note that the choice of medication and dosage depends on the individual’s specific symptoms and overall health. Regular monitoring and consultations with a healthcare provider are crucial to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment and to make any necessary adjustments. These medications are part of a broader treatment strategy that may include lifestyle changes and addressing any underlying health issues contributing to low blood pressure.

Managing Postural Hypotension

Postural hypotension occurs when you stand up from a sitting or lying position and may cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. To counteract this:

  1. Gradual Position Changes: Moving slowly from a sitting or lying position to standing can help the body adjust to the change in blood pressure. For example, sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes before standing up in the morning.
  2. Increased Salt and Fluid Intake: Under medical guidance, increasing salt in the diet and staying well-hydrated can help raise blood volume, which in turn can improve blood pressure. However, this should be done cautiously, especially in individuals with heart or kidney problems.
  3. Physical Counterpressure Maneuvers: Techniques like crossing legs, clenching buttocks, or tensing abdominal muscles while standing can help prevent blood from pooling in the legs, thus maintaining blood pressure.
  4. Compression Stockings or Abdominal Binders: These garments can help compress the blood vessels in the lower body, reducing the amount of blood that pools in the legs and promoting a more stable blood pressure.
  5. Medication Adjustment: If certain medications are contributing to postural hypotension, a doctor may adjust the dosage or change the prescription. Medications that can exacerbate postural hypotension include diuretics, drugs for high blood pressure, heart failure drugs and certain antidepressants.
  6. Regular Exercise: Engaging in activities that strengthen the leg muscles can improve circulation, helping to counteract the effects of postural hypotension.
  7. Eating Smaller, Frequent Meals: Large meals can redirect blood to the digestive tract, exacerbating postural hypotension. Smaller, more frequent meals can help maintain a more consistent blood pressure.
  8. Raising the Head of the Bed: Elevating the head while sleeping can reduce the severity of postural hypotension in the morning.

Each individual’s response to these strategies may vary, and it’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the most effective approach based on personal health history and the severity of the condition.

When to See a Doctor

If you experience consistent symptoms of low blood pressure, such as dizziness, fainting, blurred vision, or fatigue, it’s important to consult a healthcare professional. While low blood pressure isn’t always a cause for concern, sudden or severe symptoms could indicate an underlying health issue that needs medical attention. Additionally, if you have a sudden fall in blood pressure or if symptoms significantly interfere with your daily activities, seeking medical advice is important. Regular check-ups are also recommended for individuals with known low blood pressure to monitor their condition and adjust treatment plans as necessary. Remember, timely medical intervention can be key in managing the condition effectively and maintaining overall health.

Preventive Measures


Low blood pressure, especially when symptomatic, requires attention and management. Lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, play a significant role in managing hypotension. Incorporating regular aerobic exercise, strength training, and yoga can help. Medications are also available for more severe cases. Always consult healthcare professionals for a personalized approach to managing your health and ensure that any symptoms of low blood pressure are addressed promptly and effectively.